Democrats believe they're stronger in 2014 than previous election cycles

Democrats are more optimistic about their chances to pick up House seats going into the upcoming cycle than they were at the start of the previous two cycles, largely due to better finances and the help of President Obama's 2012 organization, which will now be geared towards congressional races.

A three-page memo issued to House Democrats by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) on Friday outlines eight ways in which Democrats believe they are better positioned now than in recent memory.

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"Republicans have falsely claimed that they start the 2014 cycle with a permanent advantage and are in a better position than 2012 or 2010 because of redistricting and a historical '6-year itch.' Neither turn out to be true," Israel writes.

"In fact, there are several key reasons that House Democrats are better positioned at the start of the 2014 election cycle than we were at the start of 2012 or 2010."

Their arguments hinge in part on finances: Israel notes that the committee is in better financial health than at the end of 2010, with more than $5 million less debt, and that President Obama is "all-in" for Democrats this time around.

Obama recently pledged to hold 14 fundraisers for House and Senate Democrats, a promise that seems to have quelled any lingering resentment after Obama declined to share any of his campaign funds with the campaign committees in 2014.

Israel writes that Obama was "completely focused on his own re-election, as he should have been," in 2012, but the committee is expecting a boost with his help in 2014.

That, coupled with the ground operation established by Obama's reelection effort, which Israel writes "will now be focused on Congress," will help "energiz[e] the critical 'New American Electorate' that we need to keep engaged through the 2014 elections."

And Israel notes that "Democrats have proven allies" in the super PAC geared toward electing Democrats to the lower chamber, House Majority PAC.

"Unlike in the 2010 election cycle, where outside spending only existed on one side of the ledger, Democratic allies like House Majority PAC have proven themselves to be successful," Israel writes, noting that the PAC spent more than $40 million in 56 races in 2012.

In addition, Democrats believe the top Republican targets are unbeatable. The NRCC has indicated Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.) and Ron Barber (Ariz.) are all at the top of the committee's list when it comes to possible pickups, largely because they all serve red districts.

But in the memo, Israel notes that most of those targets survived the Republican wave of 2010 and a presidential election year, during which, Israel writes, "the top-of-the-ticket lost their districts by double digits."

This is true for all but Barber and Kirkpatrick, as Barber was elected in a special in 2012 and Kirkpatrick was defeated in 2010.

In addition, though redistricting made the House map more favorable to Republicans by solidifying the GOP's advantage in countless seats nationwide, Israel writes in the memo that it may end up backfiring on the GOP.

He argues that establishing solidly red districts serves to push the party's nominees in those districts further to the right to avoid primary challenges, which makes it more difficult for Republicans overall to back policies that appeal to independents, a bloc both parties hope to win in presidential races and swing districts.

Still up in the air are the district maps in Texas and Florida, which are facing scrutiny in state and federal courts. Democrats believe, however, the courts will come out in their favor and give them friendlier maps.

But with most maps are finalized, Democrats will have ample time to recruit solid challengers in some states that lacked strong recruits in 2012 because it was initially unclear where a candidate would be running.

Already-strong recruitment efforts that, Israel writes, began "on election night" and have continued with already more than a dozen meetings of the DCCC's recruitment committee, will serve to take advantage of those opportunities.

Israel also notes a handful of polls that he says prove Democrats are on the right side of the issues going into 2014.

He cites a Public Policy Polling survey released earlier this month that put congressional approval at nine percent and a recent Gallup poll that indicated Democrats again have a slight advantage in name identification, as evidence that "approval of this Tea Party Republican Congress continues to plummet."

And on issues ranging from the fiscal cliff to Medicare to immigration, Israel says that "Democrats are standing with the American people," citing three polls on the issues that show that Americans either disapprove of Republicans' positions or back positions traditionally held by Democrats, like a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

But Democrats still face an uphill battle going into a midterm year, with 17 seats to net to take back the majority. And going into 2014, Republicans, too, believe they are well-poised.

"As a result of redistricting, which favored Republicans, and this well-executed [offensive] strategy — the House is well-aligned and firmly in GOP control," wrote NRCC Political Director Liesl Hickey in a recent memo to Republicans.

"The national map of competitive House races looks very different headed into 2014. Namely, it’s smaller and Republicans have the upper hand."