In a confident but cautious pitch to reporters Friday at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, DCCC Chairman Rep. Steve Israel said his party has a “gentle breeze at our backs” as they try to win 25 seats from Republicans to retake the House of Representatives next fall.
“I think it is safe to say we have gone from a gale force wind against us to a sustained breeze at our backs. Exactly a year ago Democrats woke up after the election depressed. We were doubtful about our ability to raise the next dollar, to recruit the next candidate, to win the next seat. There has been a fundamental transformation of the political landscape since that time,” Israel said.
Israel announced the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching, a year ahead of Election Day, a “Drive for 25” radio campaign that will target 25 Republican incumbents for defeat in hopes of regaining control of the House.
Republicans currently control 242 seats while Democrats hold 192. There is one vacancy, formerly held by Democratic Rep. David Wu, which many expect to stay in the blue column.
The “Drive for 25” ads highlight the Democrats’ mantra since the start of the 112th Congress: Republicans stand for tax breaks for big business and the wealthy, and want to cut the government safety net to pay for it.
“Congressman Jeff Denham is part of the problem in Washington,” goes the script in an ad targeting Denham, R-Calif. “Protect taxing(sic) breaks for billionaires instead of Medicare for seniors and jobs for us. Tell Congressman Denham to fight for California.”
The GOP’s House campaign counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee, is fighting to maintain control of the House by tying Democrats to a stagnant economy and unpopular president.
NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, wrote in an op-ed in the Daily Caller Wednesday marking the first anniversary of his party’s epic election victory that Democrats haven’t heeded the message sent by voters last November.
“House Democrats stand up for the deeply unpopular Obamacare law, voting against House Republican attempts to repeal it. They push for more government as House Republicans wage war against job-destroying regulations and tax increases that discourage economic recovery,” Sessions wrote. “And they cheer wildly in Washington at President Obama’s Stimulus 2.0 plan that mimics the same 2009 stimulus that failed to keep unemployment under 8 percent as promised or keep the economy from turning worse.”
House Democrats are attempting to recover from losing control of that chamber in 2010, when Republicans riding an anti-incumbent wave and weak economy gained 63 seats — the most to change parties since 1938.
It is a long way from the election, but one piece of evidence to support the idea that Democrats have some shot at the House is that they are ahead in some generic ballot polling. A recent Quinnipiac poll had a generic Democrat above a generic Republican by 8 points.
But the Real Clear Politics average of such polls shows an advantage of just 1.8 percentage points. And besides, the total races won will come down to each individual race. And with congressional redistricting and candidate recruitment far from settled, it is impossible to gauge who has an advantage right now.
What is clear is that the new House Republican majority took a hit during the debt limit debate. An August CNN poll taken after the conclusion of the debt-ceiling fiasco found that just 33 percent supported the Republicans and 41 percent said their House member shouldn’t be re-elected.
But another big unknown is how President Obama, who will be front and center in the 2012 race, will affect his fellow Democrats. He is currently “upside down” in approval rating: According to Gallup, his most recent rating was 43 percent approval.
Israel conceded President Obama’s current numbers are a problem. “The president’s numbers need to improve, but the House Republicans’ numbers are toxic — radioactive. I think this could be one of the most-challenging environments that incumbents have ever run in. The good news for us is that they’ve got 50-60 incumbents that they have to protect and we estimate 12 to 15 frontliners that we’ve got to protect,” he said. “The bad news is, we’ve got incumbents we we’ve got to pay attention to, no one can take anything for granted in this environment.”