As I noted previously (scroll down), Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Report named (subscription required) Rob Simmons one of the "10 Most Endangered House Incumbents" in Roll Call, The Cook Political Report called the race a toss up, and the Washington Post called the race one of the five races that will determine control of the House.
Add to that positive fundraising results and dismal approval ratings for the President, and we have ourselves a race!
First, the fundraising. Courtney has reported that he outraised Rep. Simmons in the first quarter of '06, $274,688.77 to $222,500 (est.). From Courtney's website:
Courtney's campaign has now raised $806,645.63 since it began last March. This total is over three times Courtney's fundraising at this point in the 2002 cycle, and nearly equal to the amount 2004 candidate Jim Sullivan raised on his October 2004 filing.
Simmons will be facing a much better funded opponent than he has seen in the last two cycles. Expect both the DNC/DSCC and the RNC/RSCC to dump cash into this race in the coming months.
Simmons will also be struggling under the weight of President Bush's staggering job approval ratings in CT. As Courtney noted yesterday, CT-2 had the largest margin of victory for Kerry over Bush in '04 that is represented by a Republican congressman (54%-44%). From that natural disadvantage, Simmons will also have to contend with the President's numbers: 27/69 in CT and 26/71 in CT excluding Fairfield, Hartford, and New Haven Counties (Approve/Disapprove).
And don't believe for a second that Joe Courtney will miss the opportunity to try to take advantage of this landscape. At numerous times yesterday he referred to Simmons as an "enabler" of the Republican agenda and noted his unwillingness to vote independently of the wishes of President and the Republican Party. Courtney also argued that the most important vote for a House member is the first vote: the vote to decide the House leadership; the vote that sets the agenda. Expect Courtney to paint Simmons' vote as one that fostered the "culture of corruption" symbolized by Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert, and John Boehner.
Joe Courtney previewed the main points that he will be making on the stump this fall. If you live in CT-2, you will be hearing about:
1. Medicare Prescription Drug Plan - Simmons voted in favor.
2. Energy Policy - Simmons voted for the plan, which includes a floating LNG platform off the coast of his district.
3. The war in Iraq - I think we have already discussed this issue enough on this blog; suffice it to say, you will be hearing about it again.
Courtney is an engaging speaker and the crowd at the law school was receptive to his speech. He seems to have honed his message to the three points mentioned above and delivers each complete with withering contrast between himself and Rob Simmons.
Joe Courtney has put together all of the pieces of an effective upset: resonant message, cash on hand, favorable demographics, and an unpopular President in the party of the incumbent. The deciding factor may be how much of anti-Republican tide is present in the fall.
Rothenberg, Stuart, "RothenbergÂs 10 Most Endangered House Incumbents", Roll Call, 2/16/06.
Michak, Don, "2nd District race seen as a toss-up", Journal-Inquirer, 2/11/06.
Cillizza, Chris, "The 2006 Horse Race", The Fix, The Washington Post, 2/6/06.
No Author, "Campaign 2006: Key Races", The Washington Post, 2/6/06.
"Courtney Outraises Simmons", Courtney Campaign Press Release, Undated (4/06).
CT 2004 Presidential Election Results By Congressional District, Connecticut Secretary of State.
Results of SurveyUSA News Poll #8798.
"Simmons Plays Shell Game with Long Island Sound", Courtney Campaign Press Release, Undated (4/05).
Roll Call Vote #669.
Roll Call Vote #145.