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Committee Recruitment, Candidate Programs Are All the Rage

DCCC Chairman Steve Israel announced a new candidate program this week: "Jumpstart." (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
DCCC Chairman Steve Israel announced a new candidate program this week: "Jumpstart." (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

My colleague Jessica Taylor notes in a new piece on the Rothenberg Political Report that the House campaign committees are relying more and more on “recruitment programs” and “candidate programs” to woo candidates into races, to make sure that they develop quality campaigns and to generate local and national media attention to enable them to raise money. Her piece, which looks at recent “win-loss” records for the past couple of cycles, is worth reading.

My own view is that the programs aren’t always all that they seem.

The DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program seeks to highlight Democratic takeover opportunities — except that the committee often puts a handful of Democratic open seats on the Red to Blue list, thereby mixing messages.

Both the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program and the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” program often put a few marginal races on their lists. After all, it doesn’t cost the committees anything to put another campaign on a list, so why not either try to expand the playing field or, at the very least, give the impression that there are more opportunities than there really are?

And the DCCC’s new “Jumpstart” initiative, which offers incentives for candidates to jump into races early, could compromise the committee’s “Red to Blue” program, which is based on a series of empirical benchmarks. After all, the committee will have a strong incentive to put a “Jumpstart” candidate on “Red to Blue,” or else signal that the committee goofed in the first place by giving the candidate “Jumpstart” status.

For anyone watching the committees, these programs are useful, as long as they are taken with a grain of salt. They give observers at least some idea how the committees evaluate their own candidates.

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