Monday, April 21, 2014

After Steve Israel's Coming Washout, Who Will Take Over The DCCC?


If the Democrats were to win back the House in November-- and a herd of golden unicorns parading down Pennsylvania Avenue in honor of Earth Day tomorrow is more likely-- Steve Israel would be a hero and be asked to remain on as chairman for another cycle. There's no chance, not even a small one, that that will happen. Israel is the least competent DCCC chairman in history and Pelosi's unwillingness to fire him after his catastrophic performance in the 2012 cycle, is dooming America to another two years of a dysfunctional GOP-led House. Inside the Beltway, people are already openly speculating who the next DCCC chair will be.

Last week Alex Isenstadt, writing for Politico, emphasized the DCCC's sad defensive crouch leading up to November, at which time Republicans are likely to increase their majority, thanks almost entirely to Israel's inability to mater his job. "House Democrats," asserts Isenstadt, "battered by Koch brothers ads and facing a grim outlook for the midterms, are providing the clearest indication yet of how they plan to respond: By shoring up imperiled incumbents and only the most promising challengers, but most likely leaving some of the party’s upstart hopefuls to fend for themselves… The focus on protecting incumbents is fueling anxiety among Democratic challengers that they won’t receive campaign resources from the national party… Some Democrats say the party is adopting a “hold the line” approach: focus on helping incumbents get reelected, limit losses and look toward 2016, which could be a much more favorable year for Democrats." What a leader Pelosi and Hoyer saddled the DCCC with!

"Ex"-Blue Dog Israel used the DCCC to recruit and finance a mangy array of fellow Blue Dogs, all of whom failed and managed to waste millions and millions of dollars. He's trying to same thing this year-- both for Blue Dogs, all of whom are already failing-- and New Dems. The New Dems-- along with the Blue Dogs, the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- are determined to keep control of the committee and their candidate to take over from Israel is one of the Democrats' top Wall Street whores, Connecticul bankster shill Jim Himes. These were Wall Street's biggest "political investments" in the 2012 cycle. You'll note all but two were Republicans and one of those Democrats, Himes, may soon be working for Wall Street as DCCC chair:

House progressives would like to wrest control of the DCCC from the Republican-wing of the party. The failed underlying precept that Democrats can win seats by acting like Republicans has been a disaster that progressives want to eliminate as DCCC doctrine. The Alan Grayson video at the top of the page doesn't go over well with Blue Dogs and New Dems. Donna Edwards (D-MD), who has labored tirelessly at the DCCC trying to restore a sense of balance and fairness is the progressive frontrunner in the race. And, Jared Polis, a bit of an odd duck, is also a frontrunner. Polis, the wealthiest Democrat in the House, is one of the only Members who is both a New Dem and a Member of the Progressive Caucus. He's socially liberal and generally stands with the conservative on economic issues.
Running the DCCC presents a tall order for the next chairman-- Democrats lost the House majority in 2010 and gained eight seats in the 2012 cycle. Because of redistricting, and political and historical factors, Democrats are also expected to lose seats in 2014. So retaking the majority-- the top priority of the DCCC chair-- appears a better bet in the long term.

Some believe 2016 will be kinder to Democrats than recent cycles, especially if Hillary Clinton tops the ticket, driving fundraising and turnout to higher levels for the party up and down the ticket.

There is also the money business. The DCCC has consistently outraised its Republican equivalent, the National Republican Congressional Committee. Last year, Democrats brought in $75.8 million year compared with the NRCC’s $60.6 million.

Ultimately, the head of the campaign committee will be handpicked by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), or her successor-- likely Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)-- if she were to step aside. So far, Pelosi has been resolute about her plans to stay through 2016.

Himes and Polis both said it would be “an honor” to be considered as chair-- a sentiment echoed by a senior aide for Edwards.

“I have been focused on being part of the team. I’m honored to play whatever role the leader chooses for me,” Polis said.

And even though Israel says he isn’t interested, he can’t yet be counted out. If as expected Pelosi remains leader, there will be little wiggle room in Democratic leadership as Hoyer and Reps. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) will most likely remain in their posts.

That would mean if Israel left the DCCC, he would rejoin the rank and file.

“If Steve Israel wants to do it again, it’s his. You never say never. He’s a name that you don’t automatically take off the board,” said a former DCCC staffer.

Seven months out, there isn’t yet a front-runner among the three current contenders.

Multiple former DCCC staffers and leadership aides described the selection as a fluid process. Fundraising and recruiting top-tier candidates plays a role, but the choice ultimately comes down to personality. Israel was a close friend of Pelosi’s before getting the nod.

“It’s going to be who leader Pelosi is most comfortable with. It’s an intangible thing,” said a former leadership aide. “There isn’t a point system like the NFL draft.”

For now, Pelosi is staying out of the debate. A person close to Pelosi said she is laser-focused on 2014 and hasn’t given much thought to the next chairperson.

Polis is the only candidate actively campaigning. His camp is pushing the Colorado Democrat’s prolific fundraising as proof that Polis would be up to the challenge of raising hundreds of millions for House Democrats.

He’s given more than $512,000 this cycle to the Democrats’ attempts to turn out Republican incumbents and another $740,000 in general funds to the DCCC, according to caucus reports obtained by Politico.

Since 2010, Polis has exceeded his fundraising goals each cycle and senior aides stress that Polis would be well-placed to tap into money in the Rocky Mountain corridor if selected.

“There are a bunch of things he brings to the table. He is independently wealthy, he’s a strong fundraiser and he’s in a safe seat in a battleground state,” the former DCCC staffer said.

As a former Goldman Sachs vice president, Himes is able to tap into Wall Street for fundraising, Democrat strategists say, potentially bringing back into the fold a group of donors who have been put off by President Barack Obama’s political bashing of the wealthy.

…If Edwards got the nod, it would be a historic choice. An African-American has never led the DCCC, and it’s been more than a decade since a woman was in the top role. She also has had success recruiting women to run through the committee’s Red to Blue program, which targets districts that generally trend toward Republicans in hopes of electing Democrats there.

Edwards doesn’t have the fundraising chops of Polis and Himes, but she has proven an ability to recruit a broad group of candidates-- she’s credited with bringing in record-high numbers of women to run during the 2012 cycle, and she’s the current chair of the DCCC’s recruitment committee. It’s a skill the former senior leadership aide said shouldn’t be counted out.

“As long as Pelosi remains leader, she will always be the chief fundraiser for the party and that means fundraising will always be second to the chairperson’s ability to recruit candidates and navigate the politics of the caucus,” said the former aide.

Edwards has given just $86,000 to the DCCC so far this cycle and an additional $147,000 to its Red to Blue program.
Edwards has demonstrated an ability to do something neither of the two Big Money candidates has: activate the Democratic base. Edwards first won her seat by beating an Establishment favorite-- both Hoyer and Pelosi campaigned against her-- who was a corrupt, conservative corporate shill, Al Wynn (currently a lobbyist, of course). Her two-cycle campaign was a classic example of how to run a grassroots insurgency, something the DCCC is in desperate need of. If Pelosi, who admires Edwards, gives her the job, there is little doubt that the Democrats will again take over the House-- giving Pelosi the opportunity to be Speaker again before she retires. Edwards, an activist at heart, is a strategic thinker who is not wedded to failed old strategies. She's tough and relentless-- and will never give Republican chairmen and senior policy makers a free pass the way Israel does. Prediction: if Edwards becomes DCCC Chair, Fred Upton's career-- for one example-- will be over. If Himes becomes chair, he and Upton will... become closer friends.

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