Washington (CNN) – Polls show a rising anti-Washington sentiment, less-than-stellar approval ratings for a newly-elected Democratic president, and even worse for Congress - just as they did the last time Democrats lost control of the House and Senate – but there's no déjà vu among party leaders, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen said Thursday: "This is not going to be 1994 all over again."
A spate of recent retirements among Democrats representing potential swing districts – including John Tanner of Tennessee, Dennis Moore of Kansas, Brian Baird of Washington and Bart Gordon of Tennessee – have also given political observers some 1994 flashbacks. But Van Hollen denied the moves signaled a trend. "We absolutely do not expect a large surge (in retirements) on the order of 1994," he said.
"We at the DCCC are very much on offense. Obviously we have a smaller playing field" for 2010 midterms because of wins in the majority of close races over the past two campaign cycles. There's "less territory (for Democrats) to compete in," he told reporters in a briefing at the Democratic National Committee.
And more for the GOP. Last year, President Obama won 34 congressional districts represented by Republicans. But John McCain took 49 districts that are currently represented by a Democrat in Congress. The first victory for nearly half of those members of Congress came in either the 2006 Democratic takeover year or the 2008 Obama vote surge.
On Thurday, the National Republican Congressional Committee released a memo boasting of recruits in 36 of DCCC's 43 DCCC Frontline districts, and candidates in 298 districts overall.
Van Hollen dismissed the numbers, pointing instead to the DCCC's massive cash-on-hand advantage over its Republican counterpart. "They're telling their candidates they have the resources to support them," said the Maryland congressman. "Their candidates better check the NRCC's books."
Van Hollen said Democrats would benefit from a stabilizing economy in 2010. "We haven't turned the corner yet, but we have stopped the free fall in a very short period of time, given what we inherited," he said.