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Israel: Redistricting Impacts Recruiting Timeline

Israel: Redistricting Impacts Recruiting Timeline

By Erin McPike - February 16, 2011

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel of New York downplayed the importance of redistricting to his party's efforts to regain House seats next year, but he acknowledged that it will affect his team's strategy in the coming months.

"We will have some recruits announce at the end of March," he said at a press briefing Wednesday. Israel explained, however, that because the redistricting process is fluid, the recruiting process will be fluid.

He noted the redistricting process will have an effect on recruitment and the timing of it, because he doesn't want strong recruits to be announced before redistricting efforts have been completed for fear that it could negatively impact how districts are drawn.

"Republicans will redistrict you to another state," he joked.

Nevertheless, while Israel conceded that red states will pick up 12 congressional districts from blue states after redistricting is completed, he cautioned that not all of those seats will be red. As an example, he cited Texas, which will gain four seats before the 2012 election. Original projections suggested that all four would become GOP seats, but he pointed out that new analysis says both parties likely will add two Texas seats apiece.

Across the board, he said, the shuffle of seats between parties as a result of redistricting will be "pretty close to a wash."

Israel also boasted that the DCCC has already undertaken recruitment efforts in 30 states. Democratic congressmen on the recruitment team have visited 15 states on recruitment trips and made recruitment calls to candidates in another 15 states.

He called the level of involvement by members unprecedented, noting that Democratic House members from across the ideology spectrum have pitched in to help recruit. He added that the DCCC raised $4.4 million in January, its second highest January fundraising haul in the last five years.

"We have gone through the five stages of grief, and we're over it," he said.

Instead, he said, he's working toward winning 25 seats, which Democrats need to get in order to get to 218 seats and reclaim the majority. Specifically, Israel's examining the 61 seats Republicans hold that President Obama carried in the 2008 presidential election. Fourteen of those 61 were also carried by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 election.

"My focus is on 9 million independent voters," Israel said, noting that it won't be as difficult to make gains if the Democrats hold Republicans accountable. He complained that Republicans said if they got back to power they would work on jobs.

"They haven't focused on revitalizing jobs; they've focused on redefining rape," he said.

Israel was candid about Democratic opportunities in a couple of districts. First, he noted that for all of the hype about a competitive special election to replace New York Republican Rep. Chris Lee - who resigned last week after he lied about his age and occupation in a social posting online - the district isn't as competitive as some would suggest.

"I certainly haven't made that assessment," he said about whether it's a "Democratic district." In fact, he noted that Obama carried 47 percent of the district's vote in 2008, and Kerry carried 43 percent of the vote in 2004.

As for the South Dakota at-large seat, which Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin lost to Republican Kristi Noem in November, Israel said he's traded e-mails with Herseth Sandlin about a rematch. He said the DCCC wants her to run again but she hasn't said yet whether she's interested.

Not all former members who were ousted in 2010 are fielding recruitment calls from the DCCC, Israel said, but some of them are welcome back for rematches. He said polling shows that voters are having buyer's remorse in some districts where Republicans beat newer incumbents, and consequently some of them will be pushed to run again.

National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay scoffed, "Steve Israel and his giant-sized ego will have a hard time winning anything until they admit why their party was rebuked by voters in the first place. Judging by their continued support for massive government spending, it's obvious that House Democrats have a long way to go before accomplishing their goal of returning Nancy Pelosi to the Speaker's chair."

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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