Can Obama’s Campaign Team Win Back the House?

President Barack Obama greets House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi as he arrives for swearing-in ceremonies at the U.S. Capitol Photograph by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the House of Representatives to Democrats’ fortunes over the next four years and beyond. The House is where Democratic legislation goes to die. Democrats made gains in the 2012 election but fell short of unseating John Boehner. Keenly aware of this, President Obama has already begun raising money for Democratic House candidates in hopes that his party can wrest back control in 2014 and make the last two years of his presidency as productive as the first two.

So far, all the attention and controversy has focused on Obama himself. But, as I explain in a short feature story in the new issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, the president’s ability to raise money is only one factor in whether Democrats can win back the House. Another factor—a brand new one—is whether the Obama reelection team, which engineered such a decisive victory against Mitt Romney, can work its magic on the congressional level. We’re about to find out. The first test case will be a guy named Ro Khanna, a 36-year-old Indian American technology lawyer with whom Obama’s staff is smitten. On Tuesday, Khanna announced his race for Congress in California’s 17th District.

In my piece, I lay out the many reasons this race is worth watching—among them, that Khanna is taking on incumbent Democratic Representative Mike Honda, so there are interesting echoes of the Obama vs. Hillary primary of 2008. But the biggest reason is that the whole Obama campaign apparatus—the grassroots organizing, the data analytics, the wired-to-the-hilt technology—will be applied at the House level. If it works, the plan is to expand this to other districts, including Republican-held ones. This would, in theory, give Democratic House candidates the same leg up on Republican House candidates that Obama had over Romney. It might be enough to win back the House. That’s an intriguing prospect.

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