DCCC Chief: Syria Not Big Issue in 2014 Elections

Israel is the DCCC chairman. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House Democratic campaign chief told reporters Tuesday that while Capitol Hill is consumed with debate on Syria, the issue will not affect the 2014 midterms.

"2014 is not going to be a referendum on Syria," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. Instead, he added, the 2014 midterms will be about "solutions," helping the middle class, extremism and partisanship.

Israel declined to detail the Syria issue in his role as DCCC chairman, reiterating the committee does not endorse policy positions. Instead, he argued that many House Republicans who oppose authorization for intervention in Syria would support the same policy if Mitt Romney were president and proposed it instead of President Barack Obama.

"The level of hypocrisy is what amazes me," he said.

Israel stated that his personal position — not that of the DCCC — is generally supportive of military intervention, but he is hopeful about reports that the Russian government proposed taking control of Syria's chemical weapons.
"Now we have to see if that path is credible," he said.
As for his own incumbents, he stressed that his vulnerable House Democrats must be "communicating" with their constituents on Syria. Israel added that Democrats should not be taking into consideration whether their vote "helps or hurts the president."

"On the question of: Can we win the House? ..." he said. "It's just way too early to say."

"It is speculative. It is hypothetical. It is crystal ball stuff," Israel said of House race prognosticators. "My job is not to prophesize. It's to build a foundation that will withstand whatever winds exist or exploit whatever winds exist in the fall of 2014."

Throughout the 2014 cycle, Israel has been careful to proclaim Democrats could take control of the House. Last cycle, the chairman's rhetoric on his party's chances of winning the House was much more bullish.

Israel also added that he commissioned a massive polling project by Democratic pollster Geoff Garin of Hart Research. Israel described the data as encouraging, adding that swing voters found the Republican brand "toxic" in those districts.

Still, Israel conceded that voters in those districts "still need to be convinced" they ought to fire Republican incumbents.