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Van Hollen: Democrats Expanded The Playing Field Again

The Democrats' ability to expand the playing field for a second consecutive election — and not just play defense in the seats they picked up in 2006 — was a big part of their success in the last election, according to Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In a memo to colleagues on Thursday, Van Hollen wrote that "expanding the playing field from purple and pink to red and deep red districts was critical to our success this cycle.

"Despite the NRCC’s pre-election spin that Democrats couldn’t hold and win seats that President Bush carried, the reality is that we are competing in and winning traditionally Republican seats, particularly in the suburbs," Van Hollen wrote. "Of the 24 districts that Democrats won this cycle, George Bush won 21 in 2004 by an average of 54 percent and many were carried by Sen. McCain."

These statistics don't bode well for congressional Republicans, who have watched their numbers erode in back-to-back elections. That may explain the pledge yesterday by Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, the newly elected chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, to recruit candidates and raise money in traditionally Democratic seats; after all, Republicans need to reverse the trend just to nibble away at the Democrats' expanded majority.

Statistically, the DCCC saved $15 million by reserving advertising early; doubled its spending on get-out-the-vote efforts — spending $18 million in 60 districts after spending $9 million in 35 districts in 2006; developed a new reporting system that allowed them to track voter contacts more closely; and made person-to-person contacts with 35 million voters — 21 million through get-out-the-vote drives.

These contacts and organizational strength paid particular dividends in the suburbs, helping the party's efforts in those districts.

Van Hollen also went out of his way to thank members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and folks who helped with recruitment and the Frontline Program for the most competitive seats.

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