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Irish American lobby groups line up behind Dems, GOP

By Susan Falvella Garraty

Washington, D.C. ---"It's all about the money honey," says Irish American Republicans' president Susan Davis of this year's midterm elections.

Without a signature Irish American issue to galvanize an ideologically disparate group, Davis says she and her fellow Republicans came up with cash to help support key races that could change the balance of power on Capitol Hill, and in many state houses around the country.

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Although final figures are not in, the Federal Election Commission records show candidates spent record breaking amounts and poured more into these races than in any previous cycle.

"On the Senate side, we see three key states including Illinois, Pennsylvania and California as being very close," said Davis in an interview.

One of the closest races includes a prominent Irish American ultra conservative. Davis backs former Republican congressman Patrick Toomey in the down-to-the-wire battle with Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA) for the Pennsylvania seat of Democrats and former Republican, Senator Arlen Specter.

She says voters are not in the mood to mollycoddle candidates.

"What's really stunning is the amount of anger towards the president and towards Democrats and incumbents," said Davis.

Even the indefatigable Stella O'Leary of the Irish American Democrats couldn't hide her disappointment as she took an unvarnished view of what her party may be left with come November 3rd.

She hopes the Democratic mantra of getting the vote out will resonate, but she conceded the enthusiasm engendered by Barack Obama's historic sweep to victory is just not there this time around.

"We see that the damage looks like loosing the House, but there are some races that at the end are drifting our way," said O'Leary.

She pointed to the resurrection of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley who just a few weeks ago was running behind his opponent, Robert Ehrlich. O'Malley now has a double digit lead. In Illinois, O'Leary thinks Democratic incumbent governor, Pat Quinn, will retain his seat.

O'Leary said many of the congressional districts being lost by Democrats this year were first won only two years ago and were aberrations. She cites Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH).

"She's got part of Columbus, but is in a basically Republican area, and the last time was a little bit of a freak, but now it's looking very, very difficult."

What's difficult for some is easy for others.

"I had the most miserable night of my entire life two years ago when Barack Obama was elected," recollected co-Chair of the Irish American Republicans, Jeff Cleary.

"To think that in only two years we have turned things around, I never could have believed it."

Cleary said the fact that President Obama had to go into normally solidly Democratic footholds to help candidates had used limited resources that were desperately needed by other Democrats fighting lengthier and tougher uphill climbs in more traditional red states.

"I was frankly surprised because I thought the momentum (from Obama's election) would see us through," admitted Stella O'Leary.

"I always thought Obama would have a very hard time governing, I just thought it would take us four years and not just two to get things back, but now Republicans and Democrats will have to learn to work together" said Susan Davis.

[PHOTO Stella O'Leary of the Irish American Democrats introduces New York gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo.]