In a memo sent to House Democrats on Friday, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said the caucus is in a stronger political position to start the 2014 campaign than in either of the last two cycles -- an argument aimed at rebutting the hardening belief in Washington that House Republicans have a near-lock on their majority.
Israel's memo, sent to National Journal by a Democratic aide, boiled down to one theme: Republicans and their tea party allies are deeply unpopular with the public, which means that Democrats -- with President Obama's help -- should be able to overcome a congressional map that leans red. Democrats, who won a net of eight seats last year, need to win another 17 more to retake the majority.
"Redistricting has empowered the worst elements of the Republican Party, amplifying the extremist echo chamber and making the tea party Republican congress toxic to voters," Israel wrote. "Republicans redrew already-safe members into even more Republican districts, driving control of their party more to their base, forcing more primaries, and making it less likely that they can put forward a party agenda that appeals to Independents."
Democrats have emphasized the dysfunction of the GOP-controlled House, highlighting parliamentary blow-ups like the failed "Plan B" vote and stumbling attempt to approve the Superstorm Sandy relief bill. And polls show most voters blame the GOP for Congress’s dysfunction.
The chairman also touted newfound support from Obama, who last year focused exclusively on his own reelection campaign. The president is holding eight events for House Democrats this year, and Organizing for Action, his former campaign apparatus newly formed as an independent political organization, will bring its ground-game prowess to the midterm election.
"Voters who backed President Obama in 2012 will be motivated to vote in 2014 to remove the Tea Party obstruction to the President's agenda," said Israel, who also listed the committee's improved financial condition and the superiority of its allied outside groups as reasons Democrats are poised to succeed.
Still, retaking the majority remains an uphill climb for Democrats. Even as he went on to claim just 47 percent of the overall national vote, Mitt Romney still earned more votes than Obama in over 52 percent of congressional districts last year, thanks to a favorable redistricting process and the presence of so many Democratic voters in tightly packed cities (plus the District of Columbia). The president's party has also traditionally fared poorly in midterm elections, as Democrats found out when they lost 63 seats in 2010.
Greg Walden, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told Hotline On Call on Thursday that although he understands conditions are favorable for his party next year, he knows Republicans have a lot of work to do to ensure a successful cycle.
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