This cycle, Israel is fighting to make Republicans — and their internal schisms — the focus of the national political narrative.
“The divisions aren’t on our side. The divisions are on the Republican side,” he said. “We’re not the ones who can’t get a bill passed on the floor of the House of Representatives this week. ... We’re not the ones who just can’t find 218 votes for legislation. So to talk about divisions among Democrats, I think, is to ignore the more clear and powerful divisions that are paralyzing the Republicans.”
Democrats pounced last week on a series of GOP missteps.
In less than 24 hours, GOP leaders — faced with an insurrection within their own ranks — were forced to pull a trade bill from the calendar and failed to muster the two-thirds majority needed to pass one of Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s signature YouCut proposals, as well as an extension of the USA PATRIOT Act. And after the trio of legislative setbacks, conservatives forced GOP leaders to identify deeper spending cuts in the stopgap spending measure set to come to the floor this week.
Israel is already facing races, with special elections looming in California and New York after two unexpected vacancies. Rep. Jane Harman is leaving to take another job, and Democrats are expected to hold her Los Angeles-area seat. Republican Rep. Chris Lee abruptly resigned last week following the publication of a romantic e-mail exchange that the married former lawmaker allegedly had with a woman whom he contacted via Craigslist. Lee’s New York district is heavily Republican. If the DCCC flips the seat, it would be the ninth-most Republican district held by a Democrat. It will also be a target for redistricting since New York is losing two seats.
To compete there and in 2012, Israel must turn Republican missteps into political capital in districts across the nation. And to do that, he needs money.
The DCCC finished 2010 with debt exceeding $19 million and just $800,000 in the bank — that’s almost twice the debt of the NRCC and just a third of its cash on hand. Israel’s first expenditure as part of the “Drive to 25” campaign targeted vulnerable Republicans in 19 districts. But the effort, which included radio ads and e-mails, totaled just $10,000, or less than $600 per district.
The outside conservative group Crossroads GPS fired back soon after, spending $90,000 on “real buys” to defend the Republicans.
“I love adversaries who cut off their nose to spite their face. Crossroads never anticipated having to spend money in January and February. The more they teach me lessons by emptying out their bank account, the happier I’ll be,” Israel said, noting that the skirmish led to several press reports about Crossroads, which does not disclose its donors. “The more we get stories about Crossroads and American cowards — all these cowardly groups that are hiding under the robes of Supreme Court justices, the better it is for us.”
Israel would not share updated fundraising totals through the first month of the year, but he said heightened efforts to collect Members’ dues have been “very, very strong” in January. Coupled with $1 million in December online donations — averaging $32 apiece — he said he was optimistic about the DCCC’s financial posture.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.