Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel of new York 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 Joe 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.
Minimum wage push
President Barack Obama on Wednesday launched a fresh effort to focus on the minimum wage ahead of this year’s midterm elections, emphasizing the populist economic message that will drive much of this year’s Democratic strategy.
In a White House event, Obama signed an executive order hiking the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 from $7.25 starting next year. He was following through on an announcement he had made ahead of this year’s State of the Union address.
Obama also called on Congress to do the same for all other workers by 2016. Senate Democrats plan to pursue legislation next month doing just that, but House Republicans have no plans to pass it.
“The opponents of the minimum wage have been using the same arguments for years, and time and again, they’ve been proven wrong,” Obama said in the East Room, surrounded by minimum-wage workers. “Raising the minimum wage is good for business and it’s good for workers and it’s good for the economy.”
Democrats are looking to send a similar message across the country in competitive House and Senate races. Democratic pollsters say there is broad support for a hike in the minimum wage, which was last raised in 2007, under President George W. Bush.
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