Monday, January 27, 2014

What's Wrong With The DCCC? Does The Rot Go Beyond Just Steve Israel?


As awful as he was, at least Rahm managed to win some seats

Over the weekend, the NY Times' Carl Hulse predicted another two years of split government after the midterms. In other words, as we've been predicting all year, Steve Israel's disastrous reign at the DCCC and his abysmally flawed strategy will yield a second consecutive cycle of failure. Israel recruits conservatives, refuses to allow the DCCC to plan beyond one cycle, targets the wrong seats, and is probably trading safety for himself for safety for senior Republicans who would be otherwise vulnerable.
A review of competitive congressional contests suggests that, at the moment, Republicans will hold on to the House, though Democrats could defy midterm history and gain a few seats. Senate Democrats, at the same time, are defending unfavorable terrain and will almost certainly see their majority narrowed. They are at risk of losing it altogether, an outcome that would leave Capitol Hill entirely in Republican control for the conclusion of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

“Democrats are going to lose seats, there is no question about that,” said Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

…In the House, Democrats would have to pick up 17 seats to regain the majority they lost in the Tea Party wave of 2010, though not even party optimists see that as realistic. Mr. Rothenberg said his best estimate was that either party is capable of winning a handful of additional seats. That prospect reflects the reality that most House districts are now considered safe for incumbents, forcing the parties to concentrate on the fairly limited number of districts where they have a partisan advantage.

For instance, Republicans are focused on seven districts in Arizona, Georgia, Minnesota, North Carolina, Utah and West Virginia now represented by Democrats. However, voters in those districts favored the last three Republican presidential candidates. Republicans are also looking at two other districts, in Florida and Texas, that were carried by Mitt Romney. Two of those Democratic representatives, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Jim Matheson of Utah, have announced that they are not running, and Republicans are strongly favored to replace them.

But Democrats believe they can beat back the challenge to five other incumbents in red districts and say they have real opportunities in seats being vacated by Republicans in Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia and against incumbents in California, Colorado, Illinois and New York, among others. Republicans acknowledge that they will be defending vacancies in the expensive media markets of Philadelphia and Washington.

For a moment in October when Republicans were cratering in public approval because of the government shutdown, Democrats entertained real thoughts of winning back the majority. But the flawed implementation of the health care law has tempered those expectations. Democrats say that at minimum, they expect to chip away at the Republican majority to get them in position for a run at control in 2016.

“While the rollout of Obamacare created a more challenging environment, House Republicans still have not recovered from the toxic environment of the shutdown,” said Representative Steve Israel, the New York Democrat who heads up the party’s House campaign committee. “They are still at historically low levels of job approval, and they are still extremely unpopular.” Democrats, though, are held in similarly low regard.
And all this despite consistent polling that shows that voters view Democrats as more bipartisan and ethical and more willing to work across the aisle while Republicans are more extreme and in the pockets of lobbyists. "Democrats," according to a new Pew survey, "also hold a 20-point advantage when it comes to which party 'is more concerned with the needs of people like me' and a 10-point edge when it comes to governing in a more ethical and honest way." Only a Steve Israel could blow this kind of core advantage.

Not a word in Hulse's piece about how Israel wastes DCCC resources trying to elect conservative Democrats in hopelessly red seats while completely ignoring vulnerable Republicans with grassroots progressive challengers. That makes the House mathematically impossible for the Democrats to win back and it makes the case for why Pelosi should fire Israel and his shockingly corrupt staff today. Over a dozen well-qualified potential candidates have told me they just won't run while Israel heads the DCCC. He is seen, first and foremost as an untrustworthy liar and, second, as an incompetent idiot. The best candidates are waiting until 2016 when it's expected he will have been replaced for two catastrophic cycles in a row. Pelosi, complementing him, called him "reptilian," but many Members don't view that as a compliment. One distinguished Member told me-- in front of witnesses-- this month that Israel isn't viewed as a man of his word and that virtually no one in Congress trusts him.

So instead of well-financed battles to replace the vulnerable evil-doers like Darrell Issa (CA), Fred Upton (MI), Paul Ryan (WI), Mike Rogers (MI), Dave Reichert (WA), Joe Pitts (PA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Jim Gerlach (PA), Erick Paulsen (MN), Pat Meehan (PA), Peter Roskam (IL), Tom Petri (WI), and Charlie Dent (PA)-- each of whom represents a district Obama won in 2008 and/or 2012-- Israel is spending millions to try to elect his anti-Choice, antigay, anti-environment garbage-dump of recruits, often in inhospitable districts. Today we saw a fifth Democrat throw his hat into the ring in VA-08 (to replace Jim Moran) in a district blue enough so that no one need to depend on any help from Israel and his incompetent DCCC. Down the state a bit, Eric Cantor has no opponent, primarily because how shabbily the DCCC treated his opponent in 2012. Ditto for John Boehner. No one wants to run because the DCCC has gone out of its way to denigrate and humiliate past grassroots candidates. And if you were a Republican lucky enough to have been a member of Israel's Center Aisle Caucus, you have a lifetime, free reelection pass for as long as Pelosi allows Israel to run the DCCC.

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