The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Friday, June 23, 2006

Sabato: Democratic wave likely wouldn't claim Wolf; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Knocking off a 13-term incumbent Republican congressman in Northern Virginia is no easy task.

That’s one reason this year’s Democratic challenger for the seat that includes much of the Northern Shenandoah Valley is campaigning hard well before the home stretch, according to political scientists.

Judy Feder, the dean of Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute, is running against Republican Rep. Frank Wolf in the 10th District, which stretches from Winchester to Fairfax County, including places like Manassas and McLean.

A Wolf loss would be a serious upset, according to Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics in Charlottesville.

Democrats are riding a wave of voter frustration over ethics scandals, federal spending and the war in Iraq to what they hope is control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994.

Feder has to build momentum early, Sabato said, or else end up swamped by Wolf in what would ordinarily be the home stretch.

“This is her best chance and only chance,” Sabato said.

But will that wave break on the 10th District’s shore?

“I doubt it,” said Sabato. “I think that Wolf will be in good shape regardless. If we’re talking about a [Democratic] wave, they pick up 20 seats.”

“Wolf’s not even close to being in the 20,” he said.

That’s why the early message from Feder — that she can win — is simple, said Craig Brians, a professor of political science at Virginia Tech.

Feder’s campaign has spent much of its early efforts trying to tie Wolf to the Bush administration and popular discontent while pointing out their own successes.

In the past two weeks the campaign has released an internal poll claiming to show Wolf unpopular in the district, as well as charges that the White House and Wolf are too close to major oil companies.

Such attacks are as much about talking to the Democratic faithful as they are about reaching undecideds or converting Republican voters, Brians said.

In particular, Feder’s camp is speaking to its potential donors in the 10th District, Brians said.
Feder’s campaign has substantial ground to make up in terms of total fundraising. Wolf had $518,000 on hand at the end of the May reporting period, compared to her $268,000.

So far, Feder’s money has mostly come from outside the 10th District. Only 14 percent of her donations from individuals came from inside Virginia, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Of all ZIP codes that have donated to her campaign, Chevy Chase, Md., has given the most, $16,650, followed by Washington, D.C., $14,600, and New York City, $11,550.

Wolf, on the other hand, has raised 79 percent of his individual donations from Virginia — $30,800 from McLean, $21,500 from Great Falls and another $13,950 from another ZIP code in McLean.

Feder’s campaign has to hit early and often to build a perception that they can win and aren’t just tilting at windmills, Brians said.

The basic message has to be “we are not Ross Perot,” he said. “We are not irrelevant. Other people have done it too, join the winning team.”

For Wolf, the message is vastly different, Brians said. The campaign would do well to point out just how useful a 26-year veteran of the House can be to his district.

Wolf is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s Commerce Science State Justice subcommittee. That subcommittee is responsible for the budget of agencies like NASA, the State Department, FBI and the Department of Commerce.

The campaign is “definitely going to point that out,” he said. The underlying message is that “if you get rid of me, you’re going to lose all this seniority.”

Election Day is Nov. 7.