The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is getting unprecedented fundraising help from its members -- especially freshmen -- in its early efforts in the 2014 election cylce. On Thursday, DCCC chairman Steve Israel took a moment to update his caucus on the campaign committee's progress.
In a memo obtained by The Hotline, Israel laid out what he called "ahead-of-schedule" gains in recruiting, fundraising and messaging by House Democrats. On the recruiting front, Israel said the DCCC already has 13 announced challengers to Republican incumbents and has another seven unannounced candidates committed to runs.
The chairman named six recruits specifically: former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, running against Rep. Mike Coffman; former Sen. Bob Graham's daughter, Gwen Graham, running in Florida against Rep. Steve Southerland; New York investor Sean Eldridge, running against Rep. Chris Gibson; Tompkins County, (N.Y.) legislator Martha Robertson, running against Rep. Tom Reed; Army and CIA veteran Kevin Strouse, running in Pennyslvania against Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick; and Redlands (Calif.) Mayor Pete Aguilar, running against Rep. Gary Miller. Aguilar's inclusion is especially notable given that several other Democrats, including former Rep. Joe Baca, are also running in California's 31st Congressional District.
Graham, Romanoff, and Strouse were recently targets of a NRCC online ad campaign denouncing them as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's "hand-picked candidates," indicating the former Speaker may again play a major role in House Republican attacks in 2014.
Israel also summarized some top-line fundraising numbers, noting that the DCCC outraised the National Republican Congressional Committee in each month of the first quarter of 2013, while the party's vulnerable incumbents and top challengers generally raised good money, too. But he delved deeper into the DCCC's growing online prowess, noting that the committee set a new online fundraising record in each month of the year so far: $1 million in January, $1.5 million in February, and $2.2 million in March.
Israel wrote that the candidates and money will be brought to bear against a "disorganized, defensive" GOP. "While the 2012 elections were a referendum on President Obama," Israel wrote, "the 2014 elections will be a referendum on the Republican Congress."
It will have to be if Democrats hope to win back the House majority; though, as Israel noted, Democrats need 17 seats to retake the chamber (exactly the same as the number of GOP-held seats that President Obama carried in November), Israel's party also has plenty of seats to defend. The road back runs through territory that Mitt Romney won -- like Southerland's, Reed's, and Graham's seats, among others -- turf the NRCC and other Republican groups have indicated they feel comfortable defending, especially in a midterm year.