DCCC chairman: Dems have put 76 seats in play

He also pointed out that while Obama’s path to reelection takes him through swing states such as Virginia and Ohio, Democrats’ path to the majority runs through more partisan states such as California, Illinois and Texas.

Political handicappers have assessed the odds of Democrats taking back the House as a long-shot, considering the unpopularity in many states of the president, who will be on the ballot with his fellow Democrats. But recent Republican stumbles in the House have brought renewed attention to Democratic recruiting efforts. About twice as many reporters showed up to hear Israel on Tuesday than at his last news conference in early November.

ADVERTISEMENT
Democrats also offered a show of arms as they announced their top recruits to date, who will benefit from DCCC support as they work to defeat their Republican rivals. Among the 18 are Val Demings, the first female police chief of Orlando, Fla., and Pam Gulleson, who is eyeing the House seat that Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.) is leaving to run for the Senate.

Former Rep. Charlie Wilson, who lost his Ohio seat in 2010 and is running to reclaim it, is also on the list, as is Christie Vilsack, the wife of former Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-Iowa).

“These candidates have idealism, determination and fire. They are energized and recognize that the stakes have never been higher for the American people,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a video that accompanied the rollout.

Many of the new Red to Blue recruits seemed eager to tout the vote of confidence from national Democrats before their supporters. Ann McLane Kuster of New Hampshire, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona and Patrick Murphy of Florida all emailed supporters Wednesday to inform them that their district had been added to the campaign.

Democrats also announced 18 districts where the DCCC hasn’t backed a primary candidate — including Murphy's — but expects to be competitive whomever the nominee. Reps. Judy Biggert (Ill.), Allen West (Fla.) and Brian Bilbray (Calif.) are all on the list of Republicans that Democrats say they have a chance to knock off.

Republicans dismissed the notion that the current political climate was favorable to Democratic hopefuls in the House, arguing that Democrats would be trapped by an agenda set by Pelosi and Obama that Americans had already rejected.

"These candidates are soon about to find out that Steve Israel’s promises of getting them jobs in Congress are as empty as the president’s promise to create jobs for Americans," said National Republican Congressional Campaign spokeswoman Andrea Bozek. 

Asked about reports that the DCCC had offered Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) $2 million in campaign cash to not run against a fellow Democrat after redistricting dismantled his seat, Israel chuckled — but didn’t confirm or deny it. (An initial report in New Jersey media had said Rothman had been offered $1 million, not $2 million.)

“We would have preferred that Steve Rothman run against [Republican Rep. Scott] Garrett. We believed that Steve Rothman would have beat Garrett,” Israel said. “At the end of the day, this is America, and you can’t force people to run where they don’t want to.”

- This post was updated at 4:44 p.m. and 6:20 p.m.