Hoping to counter the conventional wisdom that Democrats have little chance of regaining control of the Senate in 2004, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is convening a three-day retreat with 10 of its top candidates that begins today.
“We’ve been saying that despite punditry, it’s the individual candidates that are going to make these races,” said DSCC spokeswoman Cara Morris. “We are using these days to showcase one of the strongest recruiting classes the DSCC has ever had.”
The series of events, which does not include a fundraiser for the DSCC, will allow Democratic lobbyists, interest groups and Senators to meet the the candidates, and for the candidates to be briefed on a variety of policy and fundraising matters.
Among the candidates who will attend are: former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, 2002 North Carolina Senate nominee Erskine Bowles, South Carolina Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum, Missouri state Treasurer Nancy Farmer, former Florida Education Commissioner Betty Castor, New Hampshire state Sen. Burt Cohen, Kentucky state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, as well as Reps. Chris John (La.), Joe Hoeffel (Pa.) and Peter Deutsch (Fla.).
Bowles, Tenenbaum, John, Castor and Deutsch are all running for Democratic-held open seats in the South, which is considered the epicenter of the battle for Senate control in 2004.
Notably absent from that list is a Democratic candidate in Georgia, where the DSCC has so far failed to lure a top-tier recruit into the race to replace retiring Sen. Zell Miller (D).
“There are some gaping holes in their recruiting class starting with Georgia, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Iowa and the list goes on,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee Communications Director Dan Allen.
After presentations to the media today from a variety of campaign consultants, the candidates will first attend a lunch Thursday in the Capitol with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.), Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid (Nev.), DSCC Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) and DSCC Vice Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (Mich.). The meeting will be limited to the candidates and Senators.
The remainder of Thursday will be spent meeting with various potential donors from the lobbying and interest group communities in both group and individual sessions.
The candidates then will appear at a “meet and greet” from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. with the DSCC’s Majority Trust donors — those who have contributed $25,000 and more to the committee. The day will close with a “Majority in the Making” gathering where Daschle, Corzine and Stabenow will be featured speakers. All Democratic Senators and staff have been invited to the event.
Friday’s events are largely focused on familiarizing the candidates with elements of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act and the current political landscape in the country.
The highlight of the day will be a lunch featuring Democratic consultant and CNN talking head Paul Begala, as well as party pollsters Geoff Garin and Harrison Hickman. It will focus on “key language and imagery and how the electorate responds,” according to an agenda obtained by Roll Call. There will be significant emphasis on winning in the South, according to knowledgeable Democratic sources.
Other policy-based meetings will focus on relationships with labor, Medicare and “jobs and the economy.” On the fundraising front, the candidates will receive a short course in the “tally” system — how the dollars they raise into the DSCC are apportioned out to the various competitive races in the country.