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Obama ramping up fundraising for House Democrats

For House Democrats, President Obama’s star power should help them build on an impressive campaign war chest. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

President Obama’s low poll numbers are a drag for many Democrats in tough races this fall, but his ability to raise money remains invaluable to party members. So he’s planning to appear at several fundraisers in the coming weeks as Democrats hope to keep their fundraising edge over Republicans.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) announced plans Thursday for the president to appear at six fundraisers for House candidates in the coming weeks. The announcement came during a three-day policy conference for House Democrats being held here on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

Obama’s first event of the year for House Democrats will be March 20 in Miami at the home of former National Basketball Association star Alonzo Mourning, according to the DCCC. He also is scheduled to make other stops soon for Senate Democrats and the Democratic National Committee, including two DNC events in Washington and Boston. Vice President Biden and first lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to appear next month at DNC events in Minnesota and New York.

For House Democrats, Obama’s star power should help them build on an impressive campaign war chest. The DCCC outraised the National Republican Congressional Committee, $5.6 million to $4.2 million, in the fourth quarter of 2013 and topped House GOP fundraising efforts by $15 million overall for the year. As the year began, DCCC had an $8 million advantage in cash on hand.

But many Democrats in competitive districts are facing an onslaught of television attack ads paid for by conservative political groups, including Americans for Prosperity. The group, founded by billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch, has spent millions since August on ads attacking Democratic incumbents in several states for their support of the Affordable Care Act.

That outside money and historical trends suggesting that Democrats will lose, rather than gain seats, are making Israel’s task of reclaiming seats incredibly difficult. But in a briefing for fellow Democrats on Thursday, he stressed that party members will be running against a deeply unpopular Republican caucus.

Referring to House Republicans, Israel argued that “never in history has a majority run in a midterm election with a job approval at 12 percent,” according to aides present for his briefing.

Israel said that the DCCC would be using a “Who’s on your side?” argument with voters in competitive districts, stressing that Democrats are committed to raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance and tweaking the Affordable Care Act.

In an effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, House Democrats plan to use procedural tactics designed to collect signatures from a majority of House lawmakers and force a vote on legislation not backed by House leaders.

Attempts to introduce “discharge petitions” rarely succeed, but Democratic leaders argued Thursday that House Republicans, who have opposed attempts to raise the minimum hourly wage, will feel pressure from voters and outside interest groups to support the proposal.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.


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