All of us at Eli’s are proud to have Rahm Emanuel as our Congressman for the 5th District. Since taking office in 1993, Rahm has been a tireless advocate for the people of our district, the City of Chicago, State of Illinois and our country. We are very proud that he has been a strong advocate for business in our area as well as being a frequent visitor to and supporter of Wright College, including speaking at the graduation, bringing the Congressional District Art Fair to Wright and engaging the students of Wright with veterans.
We are also delighted that Congressman Emanuel has made gifts of Eli’s Cheesecake a trademark of his Congressional leadership.
Democrats try to seize the moment
By Jill Zuckman
November 13, 2005
WASHINGTON — Democrats desperately wanted Heath Shuler, a former NFL quarterback, to run for Congress from North Carolina, but he was worried about the time it would take from his wife and two young children.
So Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who is heading the Democrats’ effort to retake the House, enlisted former President Bill Clinton to call Shuler. He arranged for other House Democrats to talk to him and for their wives to call his wife. And finally, Emanuel called Shuler incessantly from his home in Chicago to show that congressmen do get time with their families.
“Every chance he was with his family, he would call and say `I’m just letting you know I’m with my family,”‘ said Shuler, who was heavily recruited to play college football. “I know all the angles that people use to recruit you. Nobody does it as well as Rahm Emanuel.”
Many voters focus only on the last stretch of a campaign, when two candidates are ferociously slugging it out. But for those responsible for winning campaigns for each party, perhaps no question is as important as who runs. And this is prime recruiting season.
As Democrats seek to
wrest control of the House from the GOP, they find themselves with an unexpectedly favorable recruiting climate. The Republicans are contending with an unpopular war in Iraq, high energy costs, the administration’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina, President Bush’s low approval ratings and accusations of corruption against GOP leaders such as Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas.
“In the real world, this is as good as it gets in terms of political environment for a Democrat,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. “If you are a Democrat not willing to run in this environment, then you are not really willing to run.”
Shuler ultimately succumbed to Emanuel’s seductions and agreed to challenge Republican Rep. Charles Taylor. In the weeks since Katrina struck, Democrats have picked up several promising new candidates, such as New Mexico Atty. Gen. Patsy Madrid, who is running for the House. Democratic victories last week in gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey seem to have further energized the
Republican leaders observed that the election is still a year away, and they pointed out that while most polls indicate that voters are angry with Congress in general, they like their particular representative.
“There’s not an anti-incumbent mood out there,” said Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.), Emanuel’s GOP counterpart as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He said that some prospective candidates have turned down the Democrats’ entreaties. “I just haven’t been impressed with their recruiting, despite all their talk about it.”
Carl Forti, communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said that not all the Democrats’ candidates are top quality.
“There’s a big difference between recruiting someone and recruiting someone who can win,” he said. “Just putting a warm body into a race doesn’t mean that person has a chance in hell of winning.”
Arithmetic for control
To win back the House, Democrats need to gain 15 seats. With only 13 Republicans so far retiring, that will be tough because 99 percent of incumbents win re-election.
Emanuel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, hopes to field competitive candidates in 50 races, focusing on open Republican seats, districts with incumbents who face ethical troubles and districts with a Republican congressman where voters backed Sen. John Kerry over Bush in 2004.
Amy Walter, who analyzes House races for the independent Cook Political Report, said Democrats have managed to field candidates in 32 districts. Not all candidates need to be first-rate to win, she said.
“If the political environment is so awful for Republicans, then the quality of the Democratic challenger is not as important,” Walter said. “In a flat or slightly tilted playing field, only `A’ challengers beat incumbents. When the playing field is significantly tilted, that’s when `C’ candidates can win.”
That’s why Emanuel and other Democrats are giving tours of the Capitol to prospective candidates and wooing them with offers of advice and counsel should they decide to run.
They have created a buddy system, assigning each real or potential candidate to a House member who can provide support and guidance.
When one prospective candidate in Oklahoma asked whether he would be able to make it home to see his family 10 weekends a year, Emanuel sent him a schedule, showing that the House was likely to be in session 140 days this year.
“He was taken aback,” Emanuel said.
On a recent afternoon, Emanuel sat down in the congressional campaign committee’s offices, around the corner from the Capitol, to make calls to potential candidates. He has made dozens, perhaps hundreds, of such calls in recent months.
“What baby-sitting services do you need? What dry-cleaning services? I’m a full-time valet,” Emanuel jokingly said as he prepared to make the calls.
Chatting with Jim Marcinkowski, a former CIA agent who is thinking about challenging Republican Rep. Mike Rogers in Michigan, Emanuel offered encouragement to ease Marcinkowski’s evident anxiety.
“Everybody’s excited,” Emanuel told him. “I have already talked to members of the delegation about you. They are all on board to help you. The governor will help you, your delegation will help you and the DCCC will help you.”
In a call to Jack Conway, a former adviser to Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton who is considering a second run against Republican Rep. Anne Northup, Emanuel asked if he had received a cheesecake Emanuel had sent.
“You like the cheesecake? Which one did you get? Oh, that’s good. You know it’s Eli’s famous cheesecake from Chicago,” said Emanuel, who later said he is five for five in recruiting candidates who received the cheesecakes.
In the course of an afternoon’s calls, Emanuel talked to candidates about a variety of topics, including House ethics rules on outside income, whether working out can reduce breast and colon cancer and consumer confusion over the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Despite the seemingly favorable climate, Emanuel did not promise that Democrats will continue to benefit from the issues that Republicans are struggling with currently.
“Would I rather be a Democrat going into this environment rather than a Republican? Yes. But you can’t run a campaign based on the fact that some wave is going to pick your surfboard up and take you into shore,” Emanuel said.
The 6th-year factor
Still, Democratic leaders believe that history is on their side, in part because the party that controls the White House in the sixth year of a presidency almost always loses House seats.
Republicans disagree. Rep. Deborah Pryce, a GOP leader who faces a strong Democratic opponent in her Ohio district, said she feels good about her re-election chances even though the country is in “poor humor.”
“I’m not nervous. I feel very confident in the hard work I have done for the district,” said Pryce. “I’m not Tom DeLay. I’m not Bob Taft. I’m not anybody but who I am. I think the voters are smart enough to know that,” she added, referring to the former House majority leader and the Ohio governor, both embroiled in scandals.
Even so, Democrats are targeting Pryce’s Columbus district because 49 percent of its voters cast their ballots for Kerry while re-electing Pryce with 60 percent of the vote.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the Democratic committee’s recruiting chairman, said voters across the country are looking for a change.
“What we need to do as Democrats is hold the Republican majority accountable for the sense that mistakes have been made,” Van Hollen said. “They’re in charge.”