Rep. Steve Israel, who is in charge of winning House races for Democrats, told Dem lawmakers at a closed door meeting today that GOP shutdown shenanigans were giving Dems a big recruiting boost, by prompting reluctant Dem candidates to express renewed interest in running in very tough GOP-held districts.
Israel, the chair of the DCCC, also said that if the 2012 House elections had been held today, with polls showing what they are now showing, Dems would have taken back the House, according to several sources present. Israel cited a Quinnipiac poll showing Dems up by nine points in the generic House ballot matchup and a Public Policy Polling survey, commissioned by MoveOn, showing that GOP incumbents in 17 districts are trailing generic Dem challengers, and concluding that Republicans are in “grave danger of losing control of the House of Representatives.
However, Israel cautioned that these polls are snapshots in time, people at the meeting said.
Asked for confirmation, the DCCC emails over this comment from Israel:
“After witnessing this reckless and irresponsible behavior, the environment has now become so toxic that these recruits now want to reopen the conversation about running. This shutdown is showing what we’ve seen from the beginning — that Republicans’ disconnect from reality is our single greatest recruiting tool.”
To be sure, there are reasons to be very skeptical that Dems could take back the House. As Nate Cohn has detailed at length, there are a number of reasons for this, not least that there just may not be enough competitive districts in play. Cohn also notes that Dem recruiting, while better than last time, still may not be good enough:
There’s a case that Democrats are doing better than 2012, but they’re not on-track to make the most of the potentially competitive districts. Kyle Kondik of The University of Virginia’s Crystal Ball estimates that the Democrats have “respectable” recruits in about 10 of the 25 most competitive districts. Dave Wasserman suggested that the Democrats will be able to mount more serious challenges in about 5 or 6 districts that they failed to fully contest in 2012…But obviously, 10 additional, competitive races won’t get Democrats the 17 seats they need to control the House. And there are a few districts where Democrats might not put up as strong of a fight as they did last time…
Altogether, Democrats aren’t yet poised to mount serious challenges to a clear majority of the Republicans running on competitive turf, let alone actually win.
Still, even some Republican operatives have suggested that if there is anything that can put the House GOP majority at risk, it is a protracted governing crisis caused by GOP intransigence, or a continued zealous commitment to undoing Obama’s accomplishments rather than articulating a constructive governing agenda of their own.
Beyond the question of whether the House GOP majority is invulnerable, it’s not inconceivable that better Dem recruiting could have at least a chance of reducing the size of that majority, which could make things even more of a nightmare for Speaker John Boehner than they are now.
The real point of Israel’s comments may not be what they tell us about Dem chances of recapturing the House, which appear remote. Rather, the point is that Democratic operatives appear fully convinced the current standoff is playing in their favor, which could help Dems stay united behind a refusal to enter negotiations until Republicans drop their insistence on retaining whatever leverage they think the threat of widespread harm to the economy confers on them. This, even as Republicans continue to scramble for ever more creative procedural ways of retaining that leverage — today they rolled out a proposal for some sort of vague new super-committee idea — while pretending that they are the ones who really want to enter into good faith negotiations.