The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released its initial list of top 2014 races Monday. The 19 districts and 16 individual candidates who won the committee's "Red to Blue" designation show which races are drawing early attention from the party, but they also demonstrate, along with races not on the list, how difficult it will be for Democrats to capture the House majority.
First of all, the DCCC named 16 initial Red to Blue candidates this week, but the party needs to net 17 House seats for a majority. Plus, three of the designees are for seats that Democrats already hold, and retirements by two Democrats in conservative areas—Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina—put the party in an even deeper hole. Republicans are expected to win those seats without much of a fight. If last year is any indication, some of the 19 second-tier "Emerging Races" districts the DCCC also identified Monday will get promoted as the cycle goes on, but the initial list outlines how difficult it is for Democrats to win the House.
Because of that disadvantage, Democrats have focused this election cycle on fighting for congressional districts that have been leaning against them at the national level. Republicans still hold 18 districts that President Obama carried in 2012, but House Democrats need to target more districts than that to get a sniff at the majority, and only seven of the other 16 candidates on the list are from those blue-tinged seats. Another handful, such as Ann Calis in Illinois and John Foust in Virginia, are from territory Obama narrowly lost, but the inclusion of candidates such as Arkansas's Patrick Henry Hays and Montana's John Lewis shows an early commitment to areas that have been downright inhospitable to the president but where local Democrats still have some traction.
Whether the party can translate that into victory while Obama is president is an open question—and it takes more than commitment in districts like the one in Arkansas, where Democrats started 2012 bullish about chances that quickly faded—but the idea is certainly there. If it persists, Democrats will get to test their notion about certain rare districts where they say the party has consistently performed better in midterm elections.
One last notable item about the Red to Blue list is that it skirts clear of several prime Democratic pickup opportunities where candidates are fighting feisty primaries. The party's easiest chance to gain a new seat this year is in Southern California, where GOP Rep. Gary Miller is retiring from a district that Obama won by more than 57 percent two years ago. But neither of the two main Democrats fighting for California's 31st District—Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, who was tapped for an earlier DCCC program last year, and EMILY's List-endorsed lawyer Eloise Gomez Reyes—made the Red to Blue program themselves; instead, the district got the designation.
The same goes for an absent, GOP-held district in Philadelphia's suburbs, which slotted into the DCCC's Emerging Districts list of races to watch even though Democrat Kevin Strouse was also named to the DCCC's "Jumpstart" program last year. The exact qualifications and rewards for these programs are opaque by design, but as in 2012, the Democratic committee is not extending this designation during some primaries where multiple candidates show promise.
Here's the full list of the DCCC's Red to Blue candidates, which was first reported by NBC News on Monday.
AR-02 – Patrick Henry Hays
CA-21 – Amanda Renteria
CO-06 – Andrew Romanoff
FL-02 – Gwen Graham
IA-03 – Staci Appel
IL-13 – Ann Callis
MI-01 – Jerry Cannon
MI-07 – Pam Byrnes
MT-AL – John Lewis
NM-02 – Roxanne Lara
NJ-03 – Aimee Belgard
NV-03 – Erin Bilbray
NY-04 – Kathleen Rice
NY-11 – Domenic Recchia
NY-23 – Martha Robertson
VA-10 – John Foust
This article appears in the March 4, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.
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