President Obama’s expansive second term agenda — as articulated in his Inaugural Address and State of the Union speech — has broadened the array of policy and governing priorities Democrats have at their disposal to run on in 2014. Dems in charge of the party’s strategy for retaking the House next year are planning to campaign aggressively on not just tax fairness and defending entitlements, as in the last two elections, but on issues like gun control and the minimum wage, too.
In an interview today, DCCC chair Steve Israel told me the party’s House candidates will be running aggressively on Obama’s proposals to reduce gun violence and raise the minimum wage. Both will be incorporated into a broader indictment of the GOP as so imprisoned by ideological extremism that the party has been rendered incapable of tackling the major challenges facing the country.
“Both the minimum wage and reducing gun violence are priority issues in the districts we need to win,” Israel said. “Both are a reminder to suburban independent voters that House Republicans are extreme, and out of touch. On both, House Republicans have rejected solutions and have embraced obstructionism, turning their backs on millions of hard working American families.” Israel said Dems would use both issues in TV advertising against GOP candidates.
Polls show broad support for raising the minimum wage and for Obama’s gun proposals, particularly expanding background checks. Many House Republicans represent safe districts, and are insulated from broader public opinion. But Israel said Democrats had identified at least dozen House GOP districts that Dems believe will be receptive to arguments about issues like the minimum wage and gun violence.
“There are 50 districts around the country that are generally suburban and exurban, and have high concentrations of independent voters,” Israel said, adding that voters in these districts want lawmakers to offer “compromise solutions on gun violence” and to put “middle class families ahead of corporate tax loopholes.” Israel said Dems planned to aggressively contrast GOP opposition to raising the minimum wage with the party’s refusal to raise new revenues via closing loopholes enjoyed by the rich and corporations.
Democrats have a very tough road ahead in winning the 17 seats they need to take back the majority, thanks to a number of factors. Analysts like Charlie Cook and Alan Abramowitz have taken note of the decline in the number of swing districts and the need for Dems to rack up disproportionally large national popular vote victories to put any dent in the House GOP majority.
Asked to respond to these arguments, Israel said: “It’s too early whether we’ll be north or south of 17 seats. My job is not to read the pundits. My job is to execute a plan. We have a smart plan that rests partly on the contrast between House GOP extremism on gun safety and the minimum wage, and House Democratic solutions.”
Asked to respond to the GOP argument that guns, for example, won’t resonate with voters preoccupied with the economy, Israel replied: “If you believe you can win elections in suburban districts by putting the NRA ahead of the safety of families, then you’re making a big mistake.”
In pushing a more expansive agenda for Obama’s second term, the President and Dems are increasingly broadening the focus to issues — like gun control and the minimum wage — that are priorities for the growing segments of the electorate Dems are increasingly relying on to make up their core coalition. Dems hold broadly popular positions on these issues, so it will be interesting to see if the expanded Obama agenda will also give Dems new ways of putting Republican Congressional candidates on the defensive.