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Steve Israel Gives Private Election Briefing at Democrats’ Retreat

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

CAMBRIDGE, Md. — Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel on Thursday outlined his party’s path to reclaiming the House in November, a private presentation one Democratic aide called “honest, but optimistic” and Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., described as “cold, hard realism.”  

Israel gave an hourlong presentation to colleagues at the Hyatt Regency here as part of their annual retreat, detailing fundraising numbers, polling data and party-approved talking points that could help the caucus win the needed 17 seats to reclaim power this fall.  

Part of Israel’s presentation, according to a source in the room, was dispelling the “myth that retirements have hurt us.”  

“When you look at the map, 11 Republican districts are now in play,” he told lawmakers. “Eleven  including [California Republican] Gary G. Miller.”  

Shortly after his remarks, the House GOP casualty list bumped up to 12 with the announcement that Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash., will not seek re-election . (In all, 18 members of the House are retiring.)

According to the same source in the room, Israel told Democrats that the fight to take back the House in November would be about framing the election around the message, “Who’s on your side” — a strategy he had outlined in part to journalists the night before.

The source said Israel told colleagues on Thursday to keep talking about certain policy priorities, such as raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance and fighting Republican repeal attempts of the Affordable Care Act.  

“In all the polling, on the issues that matter to the American people, we’re winning,” Israel told Democrats.  

It’s also important, Israel said, for Democrats over the next several months to “exploit” and “keep punching” at Republicans’ “vulnerabilities.  

“Never in history has a majority run in a midterm election with a job approval rating of 12 percent,” he said, according to the source.  

Himes, the DCCC’s national finance chairman for the 2014 cycle, told reporters after the presentation that Israel was “hard nosed” and “realistic” in his assessment of the electoral landscape.  

“Steve is not standing up and saying we’re ‘absolutely taking back the House of Representatives,” said Himes. “He’s saying, ‘This is a really tough fight but this can be done.'”

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