More or less everything has a partisan tinge in Washington these days. But the members of Congress who head the House and Senate campaign committees play an especially colorful role. They are not only charged with making the strongest political case for their party, but they also run often-nasty campaigns against many of the lawmakers who do the most work across the aisle.
Interestingly, all four campaign committee chairs placed in the moderate half of their caucuses in National Journal's 2012 vote ratings. But don't expect their work on the floors of the House and Senate to get in the way of their other jobs across the street.
Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, hails from a state where Democrats are in ascendance, but he falls on the rightward edge of his Senate caucus in National Journal's 2012 vote ratings. Bennet is rated as having the eighth-most moderate voting record among Senate Democrats. And although President Obama won Bennet's state twice, he is surrounded by many of the red-state Democratic incumbents his committee is charged with protecting this year. Max Baucus of Montana and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana occupy the places directly to Bennet's right, while Mark Begich of Alaska is a few slots to Bennet's left in the ratings.
Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the new head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is tied for the 197th-most conservative rating in the House, close to the middle of the chamber and among the 50 most moderate House Republicans.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of New York is rated as the 115th-most liberal member of the House, a touch to the right of the Democratic Caucus median. Likewise, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Jerry Moran of Kansas placed a bit to the left of the Senate GOP's middle, too.
It's not always that way: The Texans who ran the GOP committees last year — Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Pete Sessions — are ranked the second- and 30th-most conservative in their respective conferences.
But it shouldn't make a difference come campaign season. The committee chairs bring more to the table than their voting records.
"I got asked to do this job because of the skill set I bring, not necessarily my voting record in the House," Walden said. Earlier in his career, he was the majority leader in Oregon's state House and counted running legislative campaigns among his responsibilities.
"Part of what I think is important in this job is the communication skills and then bringing a team together," Walden continued. "I think you can see from the vice-chairs team we brought together, we have some of the most conservative members of our conference and some moderate members of our conference. But they're on the team, both as regional chairs and vice-chairs, because together, we want Republicans in the majority in the House. So we all represent our own districts and regions and philosophies, but over here it's about making sure Nancy Pelosi has the gavel once every two years: to hand it off to a Republican."
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