Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Israel offered a ray of hope for beleaguered House Democrats in a memo he handed out to lawmakers during a closed-door conference meeting on Tuesday, arguing that the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan remains "politically toxic" and is "one of the defining issues of the midterm elections."
The memo, provided to National Journal, highlights the DCCC's paid and field efforts to keep the GOP budget in the news during the recent congressional recess.
The Democrats are battling a stiff headwind heading into the midterms. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that President Obama's approval rating has sunk to a new low. Perhaps as ominous, there appears to be a growing enthusiasm gap among minority voters and young voters — key Democratic constituencies.
But Israel and DCCC Executive Director Kelly Ward argue in the memo that Democratic hopes remain buoyed by the Ryan budget, which narrowly passed the House in April, with 12 Republicans voting against it.
"The single most out-of-touch and politically toxic vote Republicans can take is for a budget that sells out the middle class for their special interests," Ward writes.
This is not a new Democratic playbook. Congressional Democrats tried to use the Ryan budget as a rallying cry in 2012, as well. One of the chief challenges for Democrats is keeping the budget vote in the public consciousness. The bill passed the House earlier this month with little buzz — "no fanfare, no press conferences, no glitzy web videos, no comments," as Ward writes.
The memo highlights Democratic efforts — called "Battleground: Middle Class" — in 76 districts, against GOP incumbents and challengers alike, to tie them to Ryan's fiscal blueprint, using paid media and a field program. As a result, the memo touts, a dozen GOP candidates challenging Democrats in key districts are now on record supporting the spending package.
It cites Republican candidate Carlos Curbelo, who is running against Rep. Joe Garcia in Florida, as an example. In response to the DCCC's efforts, Curbelo said that, "While I have not fully reviewed this budget I'm inclined to support it."
As of the end of March, the DCCC had $40.2 million cash on hand, far more than the National Republican Congressional Committee's $31.1 million. But few analysts expect Democrats to win the 17 seats needed to wrest control of the House from Republicans. With an unpopular president, Democratic strategists first goal is to ensure that Democrats don't lose ground in the House.
Republicans have tried to keep the focus on Obamacare, hoping the health care law's lagging support will help bolster the House GOP majority and flip the Senate to Republican control.
"It's not surprising that the same people who defend Obamacare are still opposing a balanced budget," said NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek. "Let's face facts: Democrats called Paul Ryan their 'majority maker' two years ago, and we have our second-largest House majority since WWII."