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Cecil Says Strong Candidates Helped DSCC Win

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said the group made gains by treating each race as a choice between two people, not a reflection of the national climate or the presidential contest.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., was at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Tuesday, meeting with Executive Director Guy Cecil when news broke that Bennet was considering chairing the committee next cycle.

In an interview with Roll Call minutes later, Cecil wouldn’t divulge the details of his conversation with his former boss or what his own intentions are for next cycle, when the party is again facing a challenging map. He said he needed to take some more time before deciding what to do next — the suit he wore on election night was still hanging on his door, after all.

While Cecil wasn’t ready to move on to 2014, he did dissect the 2012 election cycle, which resulted in a two-seat net gain for the party. The campaign committee certainly caught some breaks, but Cecil credited the end result to a mixture of strong candidates, competent campaigns and strategic decisions by the DSCC.

Given the landscape, with vulnerable Democratic seats in several states Mitt Romney went on to win by double digits, it was vital for each campaign to make the race a choice between the two candidates on the ballot, he said.

“If you really believe fundamentally that these races are choices, all of a sudden recruitment takes an elevated sense of importance,” Cecil said. “Who you hire as a manager, how you structure a finance team, what message you run. From there everything sort of flowed.”

Cecil knew the map was challenging at the outset of the cycle, but it only got tougher for Democrats early in 2011, when another Democrat seemed to be announcing his or her retirement every couple of weeks. He always believed there was a path to hold the majority, but it wasn’t until the end of last year, when the DSCC recruited Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota and Richard Carmona in Arizona, that the map began to expand in their favor.

Nowhere was the elixir of a likable candidate, strong campaign and DSCC involvement more obvious than in the Sioux State. Heitkamp held a celebratory dinner for her consultants Monday at the Capitol Hill restaurant Art and Soul. Along with former Sen. Byron Dorgan, former Rep. Earl Pomeroy and Sen. Kent Conrad, whom Heitkamp will replace, were seven DSCC staffers who worked intricately with her campaign.

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