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House Democrats Going Good Cop, Bad Cop Against GOP

The DCCC, led by Luján, right, and DPCC, led by Israel, are teaming up on an ambitious August project. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Democrats met Wednesday to review an ambitious new plan to target Republicans when lawmakers head home for the August recess.  

The strategy — devised jointly over the past few months by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Policy and Communications Committee — is part of an effort to “make the case locally that Republicans and their misguided priorities are failing hardworking Americans across the country,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. The two groups, one focused on politics and other more focused on policy, will essentially lead a good cop/bad cop routine. Democratic lawmakers, playing the good cops, will utilize an August playbook drafted by the DPCC to tout their party’s agenda, while the DCCC will play the role of the bad cop by targeting some of the most vulnerable House Republicans with television ads and full-time staff members in some of their districts.  

“In this strategy session, the DCCC and DPCC will lay out our separate but complementary plans for an aggressive August recess, focused on how to best hold Republicans accountable and draw a sharp contrast through 2016,” Luján said of Wednesday's caucus meeting, which was held at the DCCC's headquarters at the Democratic National Committee.  

Luján said the DCCC plans to hire 20 new staff members for six weeks in August to focus on research, communications and organizing to expand its field and voter-targeting efforts. The goal, according to a DCCC aide, is twofold: While focusing on the short-term goal to elect as many Democrats to the House as as possible in 2016, it also allows the organization to work on its long-term effort to build its database and identity likely supporters, particularly among groups trending their way, such as minorities, with the ultimate goal of increasing Democratic voter turnout.  

On the policy side, the playbook, obtained by CQ Roll Call, urges Democratic members to highlight “5 Contrasts in 5 Weeks,” including differences with House Republicans on voting rights, an immigration overhaul, long-term transportation funding, student debt relief and a possible government shutdown in September without congressional action.  

According to a DPCC focus group cited in the document, voters have moved on from their feelings of anger and disenchantment from 2010 and 2014. This year, the focus group showed voters are "anxious," according to the group. The playbook urges lawmakers to recognize voters' uncertainty about the future, and to  use real-life examples in their own communities to offer a “contrast" instead of "fingerprinting.”  

“What we’ve found in our extensive research is that voters are no longer angry like they were in 2010, but they are anxious — about their paychecks and the changing economy," said Steve Israel, chairman of the DPCC. “House Democrats are going to use August to highlight for voters the contrast between Democratic priorities and Republican obstructionism."  

Correction 12:41 p.m. An earlier version of this article misstated when House Democrats met to review their plan for recess, due to erroneous information provided by the DCCC. The meeting was held Wednesday morning.

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