Is the Ryan Budget Democrats’ Best Hope in 2014?

Democratic campaign committee memo highlights efforts to keep the GOP budget on voters’ minds.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 10: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) walk past the Senate chamber on their way to a press conference to announce a bipartisan budget deal, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, at the U.S. Capitol on December 10, 2013 in Washington, DC. The $85 billion agreement would set new spending levels for the next two years and create $63 billion in so-called 'sequester relief.'
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
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Shane Goldmacher
April 29, 2014, 7:57 a.m.

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.”

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