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September 19, 2008

GOP On Offense Nationally

What a difference being in the minority makes. Two years ago, House Republicans found themselves the target of Democratic attacks on Iraq policy and facing myriad personal scandals that rocked incumbents from California to Ohio to Florida.

Now, it's the GOP who seems to be on offense. The National Republican Congressional Committee is using energy and the scandal surrounding House Ways and Means Committee chair Charlie Rangel to beat on targeted Democrats.

Republicans have renewed an assault they first began in August, when the party criticized Democrats for "taking vacation," as they put it, without dealing with energy legislation. Democrats voted yesterday to set a date for adjournment after voting for what Republicans consider an insufficient energy package that has little hope of making it through the Senate.

Two years after ex-Reps. Bob Ney, Randy "Duke" Cunningham and Mark Foley weighed down Republicans, the GOP now hopes Rangel will be a similar albatross. The NRCC blasted out releases yesterday targeting Democrats who blocked an ethics investigation into Rangel's admitted failure to comply with some tax laws. This morning, the committee targeted candidates who took contributions from Rangel but who have not returned the money.

Republicans have done their best to cast Rangel, who neglected to report income or pay taxes on income made from a rental property unit he owns in the Caribbean, as a major problem for Democrats and evidence that the majority has abandoned its pledge to run the most open and ethical Congress ever. Democrats counter that Rangel had no intent to misrepresent his finances and that he has hired a forensic accountant to repair the old reports.

As of yesterday, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, running for Senate, was the only Democrat who had returned Rangel's money.

Neither attack on Democrats will be enough for Republicans to save themselves from what remains a truly terrible national landscape. But as Congressional approval ratings tank, Republicans can at least take Democrats with them and drive down both parties' numbers. At the moment, Republicans have a plethora of attack material, and they're using it to stay on the offensive as much as possible.

Update: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Doug Thornell responds: "The reality today is Republicans are exactly where they have been all cycle -- on defense, hoping press releases and empty lectures will hide their shameful record of putting George Bush and special interests ahead of middle class families. In fact, with the GOP defending so many seats, we have more opportunities than we can currently afford."