House Democrats Target Republican Seats, Vacancies in November

House Democrats announced plans to target 36 districts in the November election, aiming largely at seats won by Republican freshmen to give their party control of the chamber in 2010..

Democrats running against first-term Republicans Allen West of Florida and Joe Walsh of Illinois are among those who will receive extra help with campaign cash and get-out-the-vote strategies, Representative Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told reporters today. Democrats are also targeting seats held by retiring lawmakers, including Republican Elton Gallegly of California.

Freshman House Republicans -- many elected with backing of the Tea Party -- may be vulnerable after a year of threatened government shutdowns and partisan fights that have revealed deep splits over whether to boost taxes for the wealthy and preserve key programs like Medicare, said Israel, a New York Democrat.

“Those are our top-tier targets, and we’re going to hold them responsible,” he said. Other districts the Democrats will target will be identified later, he said.

Democrats need 25 seats to regain control of the House, which they lost in the 2010 election that centered on voter unrest over a worsening economy and President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, economic stimulus and other policies that expanded the government.

‘At Their Heels’

Israel said he is somewhat optimistic the party can make enough inroads with independent and other voters to regain control of the House in November as Obama seeks re-election. He said that, if the election were held today, there probably aren’t enough districts likely to change hands to give Democrats control.

“I’m not saying we’ve got the 25 seats that we need in the bank,” he said. “I’m not saying that the majority is a guarantee. I am saying that we are nipping at their heels and that we have the potential to overtake them over the next nine months.”

Independent analysts are predicting Republicans will retain control of the House while losing some seats. The nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report is projecting Democratic gains of five to 12 seats.

Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Democratic candidates will be hampered by the public’s dislike of the health-care overhaul and Obama’s “other job-destroying policies.”

Feeling Sorry

“You can’t help but feel sorry for the candidates that national Democrats have recruited to run on Obama’s failed agenda,” she said in a statement. “They are soon about to find out that Steve Israel’s promises of getting them jobs in Congress are as empty as the president’s promise to create jobs for Americans.”

Israel said a poll released this month gives Democrats one of the best signs they can retake the chamber. The Jan. 8-11 survey of 1,000 likely voters, commissioned by Democracy Corps, found Democrats are winning independent voters by 2 percentage points, a net 9-point shift among independents since October and 19 percentage points more than since August. Democracy Corps was founded by Democratic consultants James Carville and Stan Greenberg.

Candidates who will receive extra help from the Democratic campaign committee include Dan Maffei, who lost his New York congressional seat in the 2010 election to Republican Ann Marie Buerkle, and Sal Pace, running for the Colorado seat held by first-term Republican Tim Griffin.

Christie Vilsack, a Democrat running for the Iowa seat of Republican Representative Steve King, is also on the list of the DCCC’s so-called “red-to-blue” campaign. King, who has served in the House since 2003, is a favorite of the Tea Party movement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at llitvan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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