By Mike Lillis
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer will use next week's recess to hit the campaign trail on behalf of threatened Democrats.
The Maryland Democrat, one of the party's most active campaigners, will focus on lawmakers representing swing districts in the northeast, including Reps. Mark Critz (Pa.) and Bill Owens (N.Y.).
Hoyer will also headline fundraisers for two Democratic challengers: New Hampshire's Ann McLane Kuster, who's taking on GOP Rep. Charlie Bass, and Manan Trivedi, an Iraq War veteran who's facing off against Rep. Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania.
Cook rates the Bass-Kuster contest a "toss up."
Hoyer's tour comes as House Democrats, emboldened by strong fundraising numbers, are becoming increasingly optimistic about their prospects in next year's elections.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that the House is "in play" next November. And Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told reporters Friday that he's stepping up efforts to attack vulnerable House Republicans.
“We have gone for gale-force winds against us to a breeze at our backs,” Israel said.
GOP leaders, meanwhile, have dismissed suggestions that the Democrats could win back the House in 2012.
"Our members have done a good job," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Thursday. "I feel confident that we will certainly maintain our majority."