DCCC plays triage ahead of midterms

Rep Steve Israel, D-New York, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats' campaign arm describes the landscape to reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Story highlights

  • Rep. Steve Israel who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Commmittee briefed reporters Wednesday.
  • "Tough and unpredictable" and "admittedly difficult" were two phrases used by Democrats.
  • Democrats' objective is to minimize losses on their own side as oppose to picking up seats.
The turbulent political environment and a flood of outside spending from Republican backed Super PACs are throwing House Democrats on defense twenty days before the midterm elections, and they are putting out the call for help from their allies.
Money once earmarked to try to knock off House Republicans in competitive seats is now being used to prop up Democratic members watching millions of dollars in television attack ads air in their districts funded by GOP backed outside groups.
"Tough and unpredictable" and "admittedly difficult" were two phrases used by Rep Steve Israel, D-New York, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, House Democrats' campaign arm used to describe the landscape to reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
While Democrats were never in position to compete for control of the House they did go into the midterms with the goal to pick up some seats in districts President Barack Obama won in 2012. Now the objective is to minimize losses on their own side, and hope that the House Republican majority doesn't grow to a number that makes their objective of taking back the House in the next national election in 2016 insurmountable.
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Israel admitted his candidates face headwinds this fall, but doesn't see anything like the wave in the last midterm in 2010 that washed Democrats out of the House majority and took many candidates by surprise. He pointed out that on average the president's party loses 29 House seats in midterm elections. And the New York Democrat said the lesson of 2010 was to prepare his colleagues for the worst case scenario in 2014 and prioritize current House members' races over those of Democratic challengers.
A senior House Democratic aide confirms that resources are being moved away from targets in red districts to shore up Democrats on defense against Republican attacks.
Money reserved for DCCC television ads in Colorado's sixth congressional district, where Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff is hoping to oust GOP Rep Mike Coffman has been canceled. The House Democrats' campaign arm pulled resources way from a race in Northern Virginia to replace a retiring Republican, where Democratic challenger John Foust is competing against former House GOP aide Barbara Comstock. The campaign cash is instead being directed to help people like freshman California Rep Ami Bera, who just had Republican outside groups drop well over a million into TV spots just last week.
But Israel insisted that his long term strategy to organize early and send 700 field staff to key races around the country has kept a group of more than 30 House races still in the competitive column.
The Democratic campaign chief repeatedly used the session with reporters to communicate a plea to outside donors and advocacy groups supportive of Democrats that it's not too late to stop the bleeding.
"In a world of Republican Super PAC hurt, the pain can be ameliorated, and in some cases reversed, when some of our outside allies decide they are not going to leave a single race on the table and they come in and help fortify some of our candidates," Israel said Wednesday.
By law the DCCC can't coordinate political strategy and resources with outside groups.
So Israel used the press to send the message. "It is frustrating that the cavalry that has always been there doesn't seem to be there." He argued that Democratic allies shouldn't just help Senate Democrats, who are in jeopardy of losing their majority, but they could focus on both chambers and that 20 days remaining amounted to "an eternity" in the political world.
A spokeswoman for the House GOP's campaign committee said Israel's focus on outside factors ignored the drag that the president was having on congressional Democrats.
"Chairman Israel needs stop the Washington blame game and admit that President Obama and his devastating policies are casting a large shadow over the landscape for House Democrats," Andrea Bozek, spokeswoman for the NRCC said in a written statement.
In a sign of how difficult Nov. 4th is likely to be for House Democrats, Israel acknowledged that Democrats were having a tough time competing against New York Republican Congressman Michael Grimm, who faces a 20 count federal indictment for mail fraud, wire fraud, filing false tax returns, hiring unauthorized aliens and perjury.
Israel declined to outline how many seats would remain in Democrats hands after voters cast their ballots. But it was clear he was already ready to move onto the next election cycle, saying of Republicans the day after the election, "they wake up to a really hostile environment going into 2016 and part of this was laying that infrastructure long term."