DCCC launches effort to support top recruits, NRCC announces top Dem targets

The campaign arm for House Democrats has launched a new initiative to help eight of its most promising candidates. 

In a memo sent to donors and supporters on Thursday and obtained by The Hill, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Executive Director Kelly Ward highlighted eight Democratic candidates named to the DCCC's "Jumpstart" program. 

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"The newly-created Jumpstart program provides early financial, communications, operational and strategic support to help top-tier candidates get a head start in these highly-targeted races," she writes in the memo.

"The candidates named to this program are running to put problem-solving ahead of ideology and get results for the middle class families in their districts."

The initial Jumpstart candidates include Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, challenging Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.); Judge Ann Callis, challenging Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.); Michael Eggman, a farmer and first-time candidate running against Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.); and Attorney Gwen Graham, challenging Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.).

Jim Graves, a businessman launching a rematch against Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.); New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia, challenging Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.); Andrew Romanoff, a former state Speaker challenging Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.); and Kevin Strouse, an Army veteran running against Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), are also a part of the first round of candidates.

Coffman, Davis, Denham, Fitzpatrick and Southerland are considered by House Republicans to be some of their most vulnerable incumbents heading into the cycle.

Ward noted that the Jumpstart program is also in part a precursor to the DCCC's "Red to Blue" program, which targets seats Democrats believe are most likely to switch parties.

Democrats must pick up at least 17 seats to flip the House, a difficult task in a mid-term year in which the president's party has historically lost seats. 

But DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) has become increasingly bullish about the party's chances, saying in March that the committee is "doing everything we can to put [the House] in play."

That includes a significant focus on recruiting candidates the committee sees as "problem-solvers" in targeted districts. According to the memo, members of the DCCC's Recruitment Committee and staff of the committee have already held 160 meetings with potential candidates this cycle.

Republicans, for their parts, are targeting seven Democrats as "out-of-touch" with their districts as they seek to retain the House.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has launched a new "Red Zone" program, with seven inaugural members that are running in districts won by a Republican president for the past three cycles.

The NRCC named Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Jim Matheson (Utah.), Ann Kirkpatrick -Ariz.), Ron Barber (Ariz.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), Nick Rahall (W.Va.) and Collin Peterson (Minn.) to the program.

The committee will devote dedicated staff to focus entirely on these districts, and Red Zone Regional Political Director Annie Kelly will lead the effort.

“These members are out-of-touch with the districts they represent and it’s time they’re held accountable,” said NRCC communications director Andrea Bozek in a statement.

“We came very close last cycle to defeating them, falling just a few yards short. We will continue to stay on offense in 2014 and make sure these districts are represented by members who will support the same playbook to strengthen the middle class and create jobs that their constituents do.”