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A daunting reality for House Democrats

November 1, 2007 | 10:06 am

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, is the man responsible for guiding his party's national effort to retain the House majority it won in the midterm election almost exactly a year ago. And as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he's understandably feeling pretty chipper these days.

As The Times' Janet Hook wrote about recently, several veteran Republican House members have decided to retire after their current terms end, which in some cases should give Democrats new opportunities to extend their roughly 30-seat House majority.  In light of that and other factors, Van Hollen, during a briefing this week that Hook and other reporters covered, not surprisingly predicted another strong year in 2008 for Democratic House candidates.

Still, here's a number to keep in mind: 60 Democrats are running in House districts carried by President Bush in 2004; only eight Republicans are running in districts carried by his Democratic opponent, John Kerry.

Some Democratic strategists, meanwhile, are starting to sound warning bells for the party.  A new analysis by Democracy Corps, a leading Democratic polling firm, concluded that over the next year, the party's eventual presidential nominee and its candidates for Senate and House will need to do more to articulate a critique of the status quo and convince voters that they will satisfy their hunger for change.

"Democrats have not yet found their voice as agents of change, except perhaps on Iraq, and risk falling short of their greatest aspirations," the firm said in a memo.  "Seats and states that Democrats now covet could be lost without a clearer articulation of the Democrats' critique of the times and their willingness to be agents of change."

A story headlined "The angry voter: Bad news for Dems" in today's elaborates on some of the worries that belie the public optimism expressed so often these days by Van Hollen and other party leaders.

Republicans, though, shouldn't necessarily take heart.  An accompanying story on the Politico website carries this lead: "One year before voters go to the polls to select the next president, the Republican Party is as weak as it has been in a generation, a detailed new poll suggests."

-- Don Frederick