ALWAYS A LOCAL ANGLE: Former speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week that the battle for control of the House of Representatives is “dead even,” as D.C. prognosticators ranked the race for the seat held by Rep. Lois Capps among the most crucial and competitive contests in the nation.

Republicans hold a 242-191 advantage in the House, with two seats currently vacant, as Democrats try to reclaim their majority by contesting the several dozen swing districts they lost in the midterm elections two years ago.

Amid a political landscape reshaped by the 2010 census, Capps’s new 24th District represents one of the few chances for the GOP to pick up a seat in Democrat-dominated California. And so her race appears among the top 25 congressional campaigns on Real Clear Politics, a website favored by political junkies and touts, and on the top-10 list of key contests in an analysis by the Washington Post.

“Few paid a bigger price in the citizen-controlled redistricting process than Capps,” the newspaper said.

At least so far, however, the 74-year-old seven-term incumbent is benefiting from a lackluster effort by chief rival Abel Maldonado, who has struggled with fundraising. In a surprise, the 44-year-old GOP pol from Santa Maria missed the cut when the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) last week released their first list of “Young Guns,” blue-chip candidates whose campaigns have met key benchmarks set by the House Republican leadership.

Although Maldonado was included in a preliminary roster of House GOP contenders eligible for the coveted designation, which gives candidates access to the pipeline of national Republican resources and support (see “D.C. Hearts Abel,” 8/25/11, ), he was not included in a trio of Californians now being highlighted by the NRCC, a group that includes State Senator Tony Strickland, who is running to replace Rep. Elton Gallegly in Ventura County’s 26th District.

As a practical matter, the inside-baseball machinations are unlikely to matter a great deal in the June 5 primary, when Capps and Maldonado still are expected to be the top two finishers and move on to a November runoff.

But it can’t have helped Maldo’s mood to find that the national Republican campaign group now includes actor Chris Mitchum, a Tea Party favorite who is mounting an insurgent challenge against him, on the program’s “On the Radar” list, the first stage of consideration to become one of the chosen “Young Guns.”

To its credit, the NRCC managed to spell Mitchum’s name right, which is more than can be said for the Santa Barbara Tea Party and Culpepper Society, which sent out an invitation to an event for his candidacy that identified him as “Chris Mitcum” and urged conservatives to vote for him in the “Jue 5th” primary.


BAD NEWS TRAVELS FAST: Not a great week for Fred Davis, the top-rank national Republican communications strategist, who lives part-time in Montecito.

Davis has a well-earned reputation for being one of the more creative and risk-taking media consultants in the business ​— ​you may remember the famous “Demon Sheep” ad he made for GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina in 2010 (“Political Horror Show,” 3/25/10) ​— ​but his out-of-the-box thinking backfired badly last week, when a confidential memo he wrote outlining a campaign to attack President Obama for his association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright ended up on page one of The New York Times.

Davis was making a pitch to the super PAC run by Chicago billionaire Joe Ricketts to take the gloves off against Obama, in a way he said he was forbidden to do while working for the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain.

Among other things, Davis wrote that the president had cast himself as a “metrosexual black Abe Lincoln” four years ago, but that a renewed, full-bore assault connecting him to the controversial Rev. Wright would “dramatically reconfirm and increase the unease [an independent voter] has over Obama’s incompetence, his inability to focus on the problem at hand and his overtly political forays that make him look like he’s got something to hide.”

Publication of excerpts from the memo ignited a major cable kerfuffle, and the plan was harshly denounced by Mitt Romney’s campaign. A few days later, Davis lost his gig working for Rep. Pete Hoekstra in the U.S. Senate race in Michigan.

Also ouch.


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