Dem campaign chief: Road to victory runs through 'fairly affluent' suburbs

Democrats' road to winning back Congress runs through "fairly affluent suburban districts" rather than rural districts, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said Thursday.

Israel told reporters that Democrats have an outside shot at winning the net 26 seats they need to retake control of the House.

"We're not there yet, we've got some work to do," Israel said. "But ... we have gone from a gale-force wind against us last year to a sustained breeze at our back. I've never said we were going to win 25 seats, 26 seats, I'm not saying it now, but I would sign an affidavit, if you put one in front of me, that it's going to be razor-close."

To get there, Israel said Democrats will have to follow his example of winning in politically marginal, wealthier suburban territory — and made no mention of trying to retake the rural, more populist districts which Democrats lost in droves last election cycle.

"One of the reasons Speaker Pelosi asked me to chair the DCCC is because of my experience with moderate, independent voters," said Israel, who pointed out that his Long Island, N.Y., district was held by a Republican before he won it. "Those are the districts we've got to win... I hate the labels, but soccer moms, independent, fairly affluent suburban districts, that's our sweet spot."

Democrats have landed strong recruits in some of those districts, and are likely to pick up seats this election. But they have faced a wave of retirements from Democrats in more socially conservative rural districts, and the loss of those seats would greatly narrow their chances of retaking the House.

Many of the Democrats who represent those districts are members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, which shrank dramatically after the 2010 Republican wave election. Israel made no mention of trying to recapture those seats, many of which were held by longtime Democratic incumbents and lean Republican in presidential races.

Israel said that many of those who'd decided to run for reelection in those districts were getting extra help from the DCCC's "Frontline Program," which helps them with training and fundraising. But when asked how he would try to hold onto those districts, especially those where incumbents were retiring, he was vague, then admitted that Democrats would lose some of those seats.

"It should be no surprise that in states where the redistricting process is wholly controlled by Republicans there's a disproportionate share of Blue Dogs in those districts, that's just how it is," he said. "Those Blue Dogs in those districts, they've been up the mountain, they've withstood 2010. We're confident that most of them will withstand 2012 but we don't take anything for granted. We do everything we can to make sure they come back."

Israel then all but admitted Democrats would lose some of those seats. "I don't concede a race, but even if we were to lose a third of our front-liners, a third, [control of the House] is still in range," he said.