WASHINGTON — The polls are grim, the economic news is bad, and voters are irked.

But U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-1st District, is casting himself as a traveling pep squad, a counter to the “bed-wetters who are wringing their hands and saying all is lost” for Democrats this November.

As the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, Larson has spent part of Congress’ August break crisscrossing the country to campaign and raise money for the most vulnerable House Democrats.


John Larson faces a tough forecast for 2010. (CT Mirror)

After hitting five competitive Congressional districts, from Illinois to New Mexico, Larson said he doesn’t think a national wave of voter angst will sweep his party out of power, a result that could cost him his leadership job as chairman of the Democratic Caucus.

“There’s no question that this is going to be a dog fight,” Larson said. But “reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated.”

Republicans need to pick up a net of 39 seats to gain control of the House. And political experts say the GOP is within striking distance of that target, with some predicting Republicans will win 28 seats or more. With the economy still limping along and the electorate increasingly anxious, it’s no wonder Republicans are increasingly confident.

“Democrats are facing an incredible gap in enthusiasm,” said Greg Blair, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “As Republicans and independents get to come out and vote against their unpopular agenda, they’re going to find themselves scrambling to protect seats that they never even thought were in play.”

Larson said that that “from 40,000 feet,” there’s little question that things do not look rosy for his party. But in individual House races, he argued, the picture is more complicated, with many Democrats out-raising and out-organizing their opponents on the ground.

“The Republicans are hoping they’re going to have a national campaign,” Larson said, while he and other Democratic leaders are hoping the “all-politics-is-local” mantra of former House Speaker Tip O’Neill will hold true.

Larson declined to predict how many seats the Democrats might lose, nor would he entertain questions about whether he might lose his job as caucus chair after November.

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