Democrat Israel Says Party ‘in Range’ of U.S. House Majority

U.S. Representative Steve Israel, chairman of House Democrats’ re-election efforts, said he thinks his party will come “in range” of retaking majority control of the House of Representatives in the November election.

Israel, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said today that an improving economy, an unpopular Republican proposal last year to privatize Medicare and Republican lawmakers’ inflexibility in a series of spending fights will benefit Democrats as they seek to win the 26 seats needed to regain control of the House. Democrats currently hold 192 of the chamber’s 435 seats.

“We’re not there yet, we’ve got some work to do,” Israel, of New York, told reporters at a breakfast in Washington sponsored by Third Way, a Democratic policy group. “It’s going to be razor-close.”

Voter frustration over the economy helped Republicans make historic gains in the 2010 election when they picked up 63 seats in the House and six in the Senate, taking control of the House and narrowing the Democrats’ Senate majority. The magnitude of the shift is unlikely to be repeated this November, Israel said, despite his prediction that some independent voters are moving back to the Democratic Party.

Battles over federal spending in the past year -- which risked shutting down the government and brought the U.S. to the brink of a default on its national debt -- alienated some independent voters in competitive districts, he said. Republicans “misread” the results of the 2010 election, Israel said.

Misread as ‘Mandate’

“These Republicans thought this was a Tea Party mandate,” he said.

Paul Lindsay, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said it’s unlikely that Democrats will achieve their goal.

“Steve Israel is spiking the football on his own five-yard line,” Lindsay said in an e-mailed statement. “Americans have no interest in rewarding Washington Democrats who continue to inflict damage on an already fragile economy.”

A CBS News/New York Times telephone poll conducted Feb. 8 to 13 among 1,197 adults found that only 10 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, while 82 percent disapprove. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

There are currently 43 Republicans representing districts that voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 and 19 Republicans who were elected in districts that also voted for Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. Winning a fraction of those seats will bring Democrats close to their goal of regaining control of the House, Israel said.

Congressional candidates in many states have an added challenge this year because of redrawn district boundaries, based on the 2010 census, which may provide more safety to some Republicans.

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