NRCC Looks To Put Dems On Defense

Alex Isenstadt

The National Republican Congressional Committee has tapped its first group of blue chip recruits to take part in Young Guns, a program to provide support for the party’s top House candidates and put Democrats on the defensive, POLITICO has learned.

The NRCC is boosting a dozen hopefuls mostly running for Democratic-held seats. If the effort succeeds, it would mean Democrats would have to win that many more seats to erase the GOP’s 25-seat edge and take back the House.

Half of the Young Guns inductees are waging competitive bids against Democratic incumbents. They are: Keith Rothfus of Pennsylvania, Matt Doheny and Randy Altschuler of New York, Richard Tisei of Massachusetts, Andy Barr of Kentucky, and Ricky Gill of California.

The party is also providing support for several candidates, such as Jackie Walorski of Indiana and Jason Plummer of Illinois, who are seeking seats that Democratic members are vacating. Also tapped to be part of the program is Arizona Republican Jesse Kelly, who’s running in the June special election to complete the term of former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The committee has also inducted two contenders who are seeking seats that were created in redistricting and that do not have an incumbent, David Valadao of California and Mia Love of Utah.

One Young Gun is running for a seat a Republican member is vacating: Tony Strickland of California, who is waging a bid for the Ventura County-area district of retiring GOP Rep. Elton Gallegly.

In supporting GOP candidates running for Democratic seats, Republicans are trying to force Democrats to play defense on their own turf. Appearing before reporters Wednesday morning, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions said the GOP’s ability to put Democratic-held seats in play made the party’s hold on the speaker’s gavel rock solid.

The NRCC introduced Young Guns during the 2008 election. The program intends to support only candidates who have demonstrated that they can wage top-level campaigns. Candidates must work their way through several levels before they reach full Young Guns status.

“These candidates have met a series of rigorous goals that will put them in position to win on Election Day,” Sessions said in a statement provided to POLITICO. “The momentum behind these campaigns is proof-positive that Americans are fed up with President Obama who continues to spend too much, tax too much and borrow too much at the expense of hard-working families.”

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