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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Connecticut -- 04

Top GOP Recruit Declines to Challenge Himes

Freshman Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) has escaped a potentially formidable challenge in his first re-election campaign. State Sen. John McKinney, a top Republican recruit, said in a local newspaper interview yesterday that he was choosing family over running for the seat his late father Stewart held for 16 years.

In 2008, Himes knocked off the last remaining Republican in Connecticut, Chris Shays -- who had taken over the seat following Stewart McKinney's death in 1987. Himes won with just 51 percent of the vote in the 4th District, the state's wealthiest. John Kerry and Al Gore both won the district, though by far less than the 20 points President Obama carried it by last year.

National Republicans have targeted Himes' district and were hoping a familiar name could help win back the seat. Other potential GOP candidates include state Sen. Dan Debicella and Rob Russo, a former state Senate candidate, according to the Stamford Advocate.

Himes isn't taking his re-election lightly, though, so any challenger would likely need to come close to matching his so-far impressive fundraising haul. He's raised nearly $1 million through six months of the year. To win this expensive, New York City-area district in the last cycle, Himes spent $3.9 million against Shays, who spent nearly as much.

CT 04: All Square

A Democratic poll shows former party activist Jim Himes tied with Republican Rep. Chris Shays in one of the more competitive districts in the country. The poll, conducted by The Feldman Group for Himes' campaign, surveyed 500 likely voters between 9/17-18 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%.

General Election Matchup
(All / Ind)
Shays...........45 / 45
Himes...........45 / 43

Obama...........56
McCain..........33

Just 36% of voters say they think Shays deserves re-election, while 46% say it's time for someone new. National Democrats have already poured $164,000 into the race and Himes has raised good money on his own.

Television spending in the district can only go so far, given that it's covered by the New York media market, meaning Shays' name identification will give him an inherent advantage. Shays is a survivor, having won with 51% and 52% in the past two cycles.

Dems Target Shays, Again

Republican Rep. Chris Shays, the final Republican left in New England's House delegation after the party underwent a 2006 shellacking, is facing another fight for his political life. Last cycle, Shays beat Democrat Dianne Farrell with 51% of the vote even as both his Connecticut Republican colleagues lost.

Shays has a new challenger this time in former Goldman Sachs executive Jim Himes, selected by Fourth District Democrats last week. The two will fight over a district in the southwest corner of the state, running from Stamford and the New York City suburbs to Bridgeport, along the coast, the state's largest city.

Rather than attack Shays on the Iraq War, an issue that dominated the last two contests against him, Himes is instead focusing on other issues, most notably the economy, in a district the Almanac of American Politics calls "one of the largest concentrations of wealth in the world" (District residents make an average of $66,598 a year, well above the statewide average of $53,935).

Himes' Campaign Manager Maura Keaney told Politics Nation that the reason for the shift in message is that the district's voters are now familiar with where Shays stands on the Iraq War. "We don't need to make an argument against Iraq in this district," said Keaney. "Chris Shays has been as much with George Bush on the economy as he has been on the war."

Shays' campaign manager Michael Sohn agreed the Iraq War is no longer the central issue. "The last two campaigns the number one issue, one through five, was the war in Iraq. We took that conversation head on. Today there are more issues on the voters' minds in this district." Fohn laid out the Shays' message succinctly, "True moderate. Votes his conscience. Represents his district. The most bipartisan member of Congress."

With Barack Obama heading the Democratic ticket, turnout is likely to increase, and Democrats hope that could be the tipping point that finally ousts Shays. Says Fohn, "Last election lots of people said, 'I love you Chris. I just can't see your party in power anymore.'" Now, as the lone representative from New England and with Republicans in the minority, Shays' only chance is to gain more independent voters.

-- Greg Bobrinskoy