The head of the House Democratic campaign committee says the government shutdown has significantly boosted his recruitment efforts.
Over a meal of scrambled eggs and fingerling potatoes, Israel outlined at least three districts in which potential Democratic candidates have been inspired to run by the shutdown, according to a source in the room.
“In many of these districts, potential recruits had closed the door, locked it, blocked it and said they would never take a call from the DCCC again. And now they’re calling us and can’t wait to run against this reckless Republican Congress," Israel told the gathering of the DCCC's Chairman Council. Democrats need to pick up 17 seats to take back the House — a tall order during any election cycle, but a particularly tough get in a midterm, when the party in the White House traditionally loses seats.
Israel had previously said the shutdown would "widen the path" to taking back the majority, and it appears that new path is beginning to take shape as Democrats, motivated by polling showing Republicans taking a hit from the shutdown, step up to run.
Israel mentioned in particular Nebraska's 2nd District, where Omaha City Councilman Pete Festersen just announced a challenge to Rep. Lee Terry (R) and cited the shutdown specifically as part of the reason he's running.
“Like most people, my frustration has grown by the day over the last month, with the government shutdown and the brinkmanship on the debt ceiling,” he told the Omaha World-Herald. “Change is needed. And I felt it was my responsibility to be that change.”
Terry has long been a Democratic target, as he's posted slim win margins throughout his career, and Democrats had been aggressively recruiting Festersen to run.
Israel also said the shutdown is enticing Democrats to run in Washington's 8th District, represented by Rep. Dave Reichert, and New Jersey's 2nd District, represented by Rep. Frank LoBiondo.
The Hill reported in early September that Bill Hughes Jr., an attorney and the son of former Rep. Bill Hughes (D), has been considering launching a challenge to LoBiondo, and has been contacted by the DCCC about running.
Democrats expect a candidate to announce a challenge to Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) soon.
During the breakfast, Israel outlined polling that's inspired Democratic recruits in some of these districts, including the 8-point lead Democrats hold in a generic ballot test in the newest Wall Street Journal poll, and the 9-point lead the party holds in the most recent Quinnipiac survey.
He briefed attendees on the four districts in which incumbent Republicans received less than 50 percent support in recent Public Policy Polling surveys conducted for MoveOn.org: Rep. Andy Barr, in Kentucky's 6th District, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, in Michigan's 11th District; Rep. Steve Southerland, in Florida's 2nd District; and Rep. Bill Young (Fla.), who recently gave the DCCC reason to celebrate when he announced he is not seeking reelection.
Young has been repeatedly targeted by Democrats but has managed to easily win reelection. His retirement — caused partly, he said, by partisan gridlock in Congress — gives Democrats renewed hope at taking back the seat.
Democrats believe the shutdown will be a political winner for them, as polling has shown a majority of Americans blame the GOP for the situation.