Democratic campaign chief Rep. Chris Van Hollen chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which supports Democratic candidates for House seats. Representative Van Hollen, of Maryland, is in his second term leading the DCCC. He was a guest speaker at the May 24 Monitor breakfast in Washington.
On the biggest challenge Democrats face in the 2010 elections:
"The biggest challenge remains perceptions of the economy. This election from Day 1 has been about the economy.... And things have been improving.... There is still a large majority of people who are unsure and uncertain about the direction of the economy.... We all know we are not out of the woods yet, especially when it comes to jobs."
On polls showing Republican voters are more energized than Democratic voters:
"There is no doubt this is a big challenge for the Democrats going into the next cycle. Right now you have on the Republican side a lot of people who are running out the door to vote, especially on the 'tea party' wing of the Republican Party."
On independent voters' reaction to the tea party movement:
"To the extent the tea party movement is most represented publicly by the farthest right-wing component of the tea party movement, that does have the effect of making the centrist voters more nervous."
On why polls show a decline in the share of voters who think Democrats look out for average citizens rather than corporations:
"That is clearly a perception that we need to address. I think that the [Troubled Asset Relief Program] moneys have a lot to do with the American people's perception of the situation."
On whether Democrats' 2010 election strategy is just a plan to keep blaming George W. Bush:
"It is not about blaming Bush. I think the American people understand we got into this mess largely as a result of Bush economic policies, but that is not the argument we are making in this election. The argument we are making ... is, 'Look at what the economic proposals of the Republican candidates in each of these races [are].' "
On the mood of the country:
"The mood of the country is becoming cautiously optimistic, and I think there is a perception that the worst is behind us.... We are in a challenging political environment."
On whether the Obama White House has been sufficiently helpful to the DCCC on mechanics and messaging:
"I think they have been increasingly helpful.... In addition to providing some direct financial help, they also are going to be very focused on bringing out the Obama voters from 2008.... In terms of the message ... the president began to draw clearer lines of distinction between what Democrats in Congress have done and what they stand for on jobs and the economy compared to Republicans."