Hoyer Predicts 'Dem Year'; Two Sides Dig Into S.D. Race

Drawing parallels to the months leading up to the GOP congressional sweep in 1994, House Minority Whip Hoyer said today the lackluster economy, the Iraq war and stalled legislative action create a political environment favorable to Democrats in 2004.

"I think if that wind comes, we are in a much, much better position than Republicans were in 1994 to take the seats we need to win the House back," he said in a political briefing with reporters.

Hoyer said Democrats have enough money and competitive candidates, but to win the House he said Democrats need an electorate that wants a change in leadership. Hoyer cited media polling that showed the generic congressional ballot trending well for Democrats.

"I think the stage is set for a Democratic year," Hoyer said. "They clearly believe the possibility of change is very real."

Democrats need to win a net 12 GOP seats to win a bare majority, and Hoyer said Democrats have least 28 top-tier candidates running for GOP-held seats. He  said the inability of Congress to move key legislative items such as a budget resolution, transportation bill and an international tax overhaul is reminiscent of the dysfunction of  the 1994 Democrat-controlled Congress

A National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman rejected Hoyer's thesis and pointed to GOP candidates running for seats held by Reps. Allen Boyd, D-Fla.; David Wu and Darlene Hooley, both D-Ore.; Jim Matheson, D-Utah; Dennis Moore, D-Kan.; retiring Rep. Ken Lucas, D-Ky.; and the five Democratic incumbents jeopardized by Texas redistricting.

"I'm not sure how to respond to fantasy," the spokesman said. "The Democrats in the Senate continue to stall bills in Congress, and it hasn't hurt Republicans." According to monthly FEC reports filed Thursday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $2 million in April and ended the month with $11.1 million on hand. But the NRCC reported $18.1 million on hand as of April 30, after raising $8 million last month, four times more than House Democrats.

The next battle comes in South Dakota, where both parties are competing for the at-large seat of former GOP Rep. William Janklow. Former GOP state Sen. Larry Diedrich entered the final three weeks of the race for South Dakota's at-large House seat with nearly $245,000 on hand, and FEC reports show Republicans continue to pour money into his coffers in the final stretch before the June 1 contest.

According to his pre-election report, which details activity April 1-May 12, Diedrich raised about $385,000 for that period, for a total of nearly $1.3 million. Last minute reports show Diedrich since then has raised an additional $106,000, including donations from a Tuesday fundraiser with First Lady Laura Bush.

Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Cheney, is scheduled for a Diedrich fundraiser
today. Diedrich's opponent, Democratic attorney Stephanie Heserth, reported $220,000 on hand and raised $437,000 during the pre-election period. She raised more than $1.8 million through May 12 and an additional $61,000, according to
last-minute reports.

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