This landscape was created, in part, by GOP-dominated state legislatures drawing up most of the House districts after the 2010 census. Their precision was borne out by last year’s election results: While Obama beat GOP nominee Mitt Romney by nearly 5 million votes, the president won a majority of votes in just 208 House districts to Romney’s 227.
The Democrats think their strategy can neutralize some of the map’s built-in disadvantages.
Strouse introduced himself last week as a candidate who knows how to “solve problems” and who “got the job done” protecting the nation.
“I’ve thrived in situations where there’s a fair amount of chaos,” Strouse, a graduate of Columbia University and Georgetown’s master’s program in security studies, said in a telephone interview.
Strouse only recently became a registered Democrat. “I took with pride that I was working in these nonpartisan organizations,” he said of the Army and CIA. Eventually, he became shocked by “the degree to which the Republican Party moved to the right” on social and fiscal issues.
He does not yet have deeply ingrained policy prescriptions. On gun control, he favors instituting a universal background check, but on taxes he said he is still studying what levels of higher revenue taxation he would support for a broad budget deal.
In his discussions with Democratic leaders, Strouse said they focused on his background. “They’ve just liked the bio,” he said.
Fitzpatrick, who lost the seat in 2006 and won it back in 2010, is an experienced campaigner who has raised $8 million for his last three races. He spent the past week explaining to local officials why he supported the austere budget proposal offered by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), but he also attended events that appeal to the suburban professionals critical to winning the district, such as supporting a local effort to curb child abuse.
He declined to comment on Strouse, but Pennsylvania Republicans have privately signaled that they intend to question whether Strouse, who grew up in nearby Delaware County, has any real connection to Bucks County.
In his pitch to the candidate, Israel gave Strouse encouragement but also delivered some tough-minded warnings: how he would need to raise millions of dollars, how his opponents would come after him, how the father of two children under 3 would lose his privacy.
Israel has been busy finding other candidates with similar problem-solving appeal.
In a district stretching from the New York suburbs up past Albany, Democrats are backing Sean Eldridge, 26, an investor married to Chris Hughes, the co-founder of Facebook. Eldridge runs an investment fund in the Hudson Valley and his political background is limited to advocacy work on issues such as same-sex marriage.