DCCC Chair Steve Israel: Medicare Has Put House Back In Play

May 26, 2011 8:38 a.m.

How big is the Medicare issue for Democrats in 2012? Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told reporters on Thursday that the House is already back in play thanks to the GOP’s budget.

“I did not expect to be able to tell you the House was in play as early as May, but today I can tell you that I fundamentally believe the House of Representatives is in play and that the Democrats can win a majority,” he said at a press conference with his Senate counterpart, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chair Patty Murray (D-WA).Israel pointed to the recent NY-26 election as evidence of the trend and said the early victory was crucial to the DCCC’s recruiting efforts. He said that they had called their top 50 prospective recruits immediately after Democrat Kathy Hochul’s victory.

Israel cautioned that it was early in the political process to draw conclusions.

“Victory in NY-26 is not going to make us cocky. We’re going to continue to be clear eyed and strategic and tactical,” he said, adding that the win “will inform our strategy, it will not be our strategy.” But he confirmed the obvious, that NY-26’s Medicare-heavy message was a “sneak preview” of Democratic campaigns around the country heading into the 2012 election.

In another dig at the GOP over their Medicare proposal, he suggested that contesting House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s own district would be a top priority for the DCCC. Ryan already has drawn a Democratic challenger in Rob Zerban, a businessman who told TPM this week his campaign would build on NY-26’s Medicare strategy, and Israel repeatedly cited him as a credible threat.

“We have an outstanding candidate,” Israel said of Zerban. “He chose to get in based on the fact that his member of Congress was leading the charge to end Medicare in order to fund tax cuts for big oil companies.”

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