Just two months ago, Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz insisted — repeatedly — that House Democrats would run on ObamaCare and win back control of the chamber. Just a day after Barack Obama himself defended ObamaCare in the State of the Union speech, they’re singing a different tune. Donors and strategists will move resources away from House races and instead focus on trying to salvage control of the Senate:
With Democrats’ grasp on the Senate increasingly tenuous — and the House all but beyond reach — some top party donors and strategists are moving to do something in the midterm election as painful as it is coldblooded: Admit the House can’t be won and go all in to save the Senate.
Their calculation is uncomplicated. With only so much money to go around in an election year that is tilting the GOP’s way, Democrats need to concentrate resources on preserving the chamber they have now. Losing the Senate, they know, could doom whatever hopes Barack Obama has of salvaging the final years of his presidency.
The triage idea is taking hold in phone conversations among donors and in strategy sessions between party operatives. Even some of the people who have invested the most to get House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi back into the speaker’s chair are moving in that direction.
Even Wasserman Schultz has gotten out of the prognostication business:
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday sparred over Congress and midterm elections, with the DNC chairwoman saying she can’t “confidently predict” that Democrats will take back the House in 2014 but that they will gain seats.
“I’m not going to confidently predict that Democrats will take the House back,” Wasserman Schultz said when asked about the upcoming midterm elections during POLITICO’s post-State of the Union event. “But we will pick up seats.”
“Where?” McCarthy interjected.
“Down boy,” the DNC chair quipped.
Picking up seats also looks like a long shot. After shepherding the farm bill through the House yesterday, Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota told reporters that he’s going to have to think really hard before committing to a re-election run in his red district:
“I haven’t decided. I am going to take some time,” Peterson said. “I have been in limbo here, in farm bill hell for three years and it affects you.”
If he doesn’t run, Peterson’s departure would hand Republicans another top pickup opportunity in his Republican-leaning northwestern Minnesota that’s been heavily targeted by the GOP.
Peterson said he will take about three weeks to “get back to normal” before he makes a decision on whether to seek a 13th term.
“Then I have to do my regular process: get the campaign together, figure out what I am going to run on, all the different things that need to be done,” he said. “Probably by the first of March I’ll know. At this point I am raising money. I’m doing all that but I’m going to do a gut check.”
There will be more Democrats making a gut-check this year. Unless the political winds shift considerably, many of those in competitive districts will face an uphill battle against Republicans with the wind at their backs, and without a popular incumbent President at the top of the ticket. Thanks to the need to salvage the Senate, they knew well before now that, Wasserman Schultz’ empty bravado aside, they’d be on their own with an angry electorate that’s demanding accountability for ObamaCare. Peterson’s district hasn’t been all that competitive despite its R+5 Cook rating, and if he’s seeing the writing on the wall, you can bet others will be looking to do something more pleasant this fall.