House Democratic leaders are sweeping the country this month in the face of tough odds for retaking the chamber from Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and the majority Republicans.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) has already dipped into Florida on the first leg of an exhaustive fundraising tour she's planned for the long August recess, while Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is bouncing up and down the East Coast this week in the early stages of a similar national campaign.
They have a steep climb ahead. After winning control of the House in 2006, Democrats were clobbered in the 2010 midterms, losing 63 seats and sending the gavel back to the GOP. To retake the lower chamber, Democrats would need to steal back at least 25 of those spots.
Despite the obstacles, the Democrats all year have been confident — at least publicly — about their chances. It's an outward optimism they've carried into the recess.
"We believe we can win those 25 seats and take back the majority," Pelosi said Monday during her Florida visit, according to local reports.
The Cook Political Report says they're probably a long ways off. The online election handicapper indicated last week that 35 Republican House seats are considered most threatened in November, versus 26 seats currently held by Democrats. If all of those spots flipped, the Democrats would pick up only nine seats — well short of the number they need to win the lower chamber.
Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO and a strong Democratic ally, all but conceded Thursday that the Democrats' odds of retaking the House are slim.
"I wouldn’t rule that out, but I’m not going to bet the ranch on that as well this time," Trumka said during a breakfast in Washington hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "We will see what happens.”
Meanwhile, Republican leaders aren't leaving anything to chance. Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) are also tearing across the country this month in a flurry of fundraising events designed to protect their most vulnerable members — and their majority.
Still, the high hurdles have only encouraged Democratic leaders to charge ahead with their recess fundraising push. They're taking particularly sharp aim at the GOP freshmen they see as vulnerable.
In Florida, for instance, Pelosi hammered Rep. Allen West, the pugnacious Republican freshman, saying his defeat would be "sweet" for the country.
Pelosi also went after the Republicans' budget, which includes sharp cuts in Medicare benefits. Stumping for Democratic candidate Lois Frankel — a former West Palm Beach mayor vying to succeed West, who's running in a different district — Pelosi characterized the GOP's plans for Medicare as "scary."
"It's an extraction of wealth to the wealthiest people from the middle class, from our seniors," she said of the Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) budget, "with the idea if that happens it will trickle down to the rest of us."
Pelosi has since returned to California for a string of fundraising events, but plans a second tour next week in Ohio — yet another key swing state where Democrats are hoping to pick off a couple of vulnerable Republicans, including freshman GOP Reps. Bob Gibbs and Bill Johnson.
In all, Pelosi scheduled 37 fundraising events in eight states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., during the recess. Prior to the tour, she'd raised $56.5 million for House Democrats in the 2012 election cycle, according to her office.
Hoyer, meanwhile, stormed into New York this week, stumping and fundraising for the Democrats challenging GOP Reps. Chris Gibson, Michael Grimm and Nan Hayworth — three freshmen Cook deems vulnerable. In a statement announcing the trip, Hoyer's campaign office referred to the Hayworth race as "a top pickup opportunity."
On Wednesday evening, Hoyer hopped a plane to Atlanta to fundraise for the Democrats' House Majority PAC — which Thursday launched a new ad against GOP Rep. Steve King (Iowa) — before moving on to Mississippi on Thursday for the Congressional Black Caucus's annual policy conference, his office said.
This weekend, Hoyer will return to the Northeast to stump for Democratic Reps. Tim Bishop (N.Y.) and Niki Tsongas (Mass.) before launching a second leg of his tour in California next week. Leading into the recess, the Maryland Democrat has raised "nearly $3.5 million" for House Democrats this cycle, according to his office.
Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, has not yet hit the campaign trail this month, his office said Thursday, adding that he has unspecified plans to do so in coming weeks. Clyburn has also proven himself to be a fundraising power, raking in roughly $4.8 million for House Democrats this cycle, his office said.