The current crop of House Democrats includes the party's largest freshman class in two decades, and about a dozen of those freshmen have committed significant time in their young congressional careers to making sure the next class is also sizable.
Twelve newly-elected Democrats are participating in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's recruiting effort, which committee chairman Steve Israel has identified as an early key to the 2014 election. "I've emphasized before that you never win elections on Election Day," Israel said at a briefing for allied groups and reporters on Wednesday. "You win it 18 months before."
To that end, Israel -- who got his start at the DCCC as a recruiter under former chairmen Rahm Emanuel and Chris Van Hollen -- began calling some potential 2014 recruits on election night in 2012, within minutes of learning that they had lost.
But Israel and other longtime party leaders are also leaning on the newest members of the caucus to contribute their knowledge of local politics and Democrats in their areas to identify candidates and help convince them to run. A pair of the freshman recruiters, Reps. Brad Schneider of Illinois and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, won two of the country's closest races in 2012. The team meets every Thursday morning to discuss potential candidates.
"Nobody can speak more eloquently about a path to victory than someone who was just on that path," Israel said.
The DCCC also has plenty of examples who can speak to the benefits of trying again after a losing run. One of the committee's top tasks at this stage is convincing some of last year's star recruits to run again after defeat. Israel cited Brendan Mullen, who lost a close race to Republican Jackie Walorski last year and Val Demings, the former Orlando, Fla., police chief who lost to GOP Rep. Dan Webster four months ago.
There are at least 15 Democratic freshmen who had previously lost a congressional race. Three of them are DCCC recruiters: Reps. Denny Heck of Washington, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, and Mark Takano of California. In addition, the DCCC recruiting chair, Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., only made it to Congress on her second try in 2008.
Israel and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi take the lead in the party's recruiting, and President Obama has even offered to pitch in this cycle. But lower on the totem pole there are some examples and encouragement from repeat candidates.
Republicans are also leaning on some comeback candidates to pitch 2012 recruits on another run. Walorski, who lost to then-Rep. Joe Donnelly in 2010, and Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., who beat Ben Chandler on his second try in 2012, are both part of the National Republican Congressional Committee's 28-member recruiting team, along with a handful of other GOP freshmen.
Israel focused on recruiting at a Wednesday DCCC briefing, but he also outlined Democrats' overall strategy for the midterm elections. Continuing a theme from the last election, Israel said House Democrats will recruit and run as "solutionists" and "problem-solvers as the antidote to tea party extremism," a quote he repeated twice. Israel also said the the DCCC was already moving to stay ahead of the GOP in how it uses data to target and communicate with voters. "For every inch they think they can make up in data and targeting, we will make a quantum leap," Israel said.
Democrats need to net 17 seats to take back the House majority, a steep climb with a less-than-favorable congressional map (Mitt Romney won a majority of congressional districts) and a midterm electorate. Israel said Wednesday that in a year he would be better able to say whether Democrats can retake the House, but that in the meantime his party was doing all it could to make that happen.
[Update] Republicans respond that that presidential firewall will be too much. "Steve Israel should go visit the Republican-leaning districts he wants to win," NRCC spokesman Daniel Scarpinato wrote in an email. "He clearly doesn’t understand how unpopular President Obama’s agenda is in these districts."
Below, the full list of recruiters for the DCCC and the NRCC:
|Donna Edwards (recruitment chair)||Patrick McHenry (vice-chair for recruitment)|
|Gary Peters (vice-chair)||Cynthia Lummis (co vice-chair)|
|John Barrow||Andy Barr|
|Karen Bass||Diane Black|
|Joyce Beatty||Larry Bucshon|
|Xavier Becerra||Chris Collins|
|Earl Blumenauer||Rodney Davis|
|Matt Cartwright||Charlie Dent|
|Joaquin Castro||Mario Diaz-Balart|
|Jim Clyburn||Andy Harris|
|Joe Crowley||Richard Hudson|
|Keith Ellison||Lynn Jenkins|
|Denny Heck||Doug LaMalfa|
|Steny Hoyer||Kenny Marchant|
|Joe Kennedy||Kevin McCarthy|
|Dan Kildee||Luke Messer|
|Derek Kilmer||Candice Miller|
|Zoe Lofgren||Mick Mulvaney|
|Michelle Lujan||Rich Nugent|
|Jim Matheson||Devin Nunes|
|Betty McCollum||Martha Roby|
|Jerrold Nadler||Matt Salmon|
|Mark Pocan||Pete Sessions|
|Jared Polis||Steve Stivers|
|Ben Ray Lujan||Marlin Stutzman|
|Loretta Sanchez||David Valadao|
|Brad Schneider||Jackie Walorski|
|Allyson Schwartz||Kevin Yoder|
|Chris Van Hollen|
|Debbie Wasserman Schultz|