Thursday, February 17, 2011
Planning Comeback, Democrats Huddle with Ousted Members by Janie Lorber - NYTimes.com
It’s never too early to bring the old faces back.
House Democrats are already deep into planning how to win back the majority – with the help of the lawmakers who lost it for them.
Representative Steve Israel of New York, the new head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, holds conference calls at least once a month with a group of Capitol Hill alums, which includes about 90 percent of the Democrats who lost their re-election in 2010 and those who retired.
They trade notes on messaging, public relations, Washington happenings and – perhaps most importantly – their districts, now controlled by Republicans. Mr. Israel is working hard to get several of those ousted members, like Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota, to run again. (She hasn’t committed.)
Democrats have zeroed in on 14 must-win seats in 8 states – the 14 districts that voted for John Kerry in 2004 and President Obama in 2008, but fell into Republican hands in 2010. Many of those regions will also be the focus of Mr. Obama’s re-election effort, said Mr. Israel, who is in constant contact with president’s political team. Democrats will devote the most attention to Pennsylvania, where a total of five members are on their target list.
With his committee boasting one of the largest January cash hauls n the committee’s history – only $300,000 shy of its all-time fund-raising high for the month – Mr. Israel spoke to a group of reporters at party headquarters on Wednesday with confidence and swagger.
“We have sprung from our defensive crouch,” said Mr. Israel, a former Blue Dog Democrat representing Long Island. “There are 63 unvetted, unknown Republicans, and we have introduced them to their constituents and their constituents are getting buyer’s remorse.”
Mr. Israel traveled to Chicago in December to meet with Rahm Emanuel, the former White House Chief of Staff, who led Democrats back into the majority as committee chairman in 2006. And like Mr. Emanuel, he has developed an election strategy systematically, as if heading into a military battle. After the 14 do-or-die districts, funds will be directed to the 54 seats that Republicans captured in 2010 with less than 55 percent of the vote, followed by the 61 Republican-held districts that voted for Mr. Obama in 2008.
The last few weeks have been far from flawless for the new majority in the House — something that Mr. Israel was relishing Wednesday morning.
“I wake up every morning trying to figure out how to win 25 seats,” Mr. Israel said. “Being in the minority sucks, but being in the minority and being able to do something about it is priceless.”