The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said Tuesday that the 2014 midterm elections are "not going to be a referendum on Syria" and will instead focus on what he described as Democratic "problem-solvers" versus Republican "gridlock."
At a breakfast in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, DCCC Chairman and New York Rep. Steve Israel said he felt the current Syrian crisis would "evaporate fairly quickly, especially if the Russian offer is a real deal."
"If the resolution is what we want," said Israel, "then I just don't see a debate in 2014 over what would have been a limited military option in '13. The debate in 2014 will be about the middle class and solutions to its problems."
Asked by Newsmax about his own feelings on the proposal by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Syria have its chemical weapons inspected and destroyed, the New Yorker replied that he wasn't speaking as DCCC chief, but as a congressman and supporter of a U.S. strike against Syria.
"I attended [White House Chief of Staff] Denis McDonough's classified briefing last night," Israel said, adding that it is clear that "the threat of a credible use of force persuaded Russia to make the offer. We need to see if it is credible and to engage all of the parties robustly and rapidly if it is."
"Trust, but verify — in the words of a former president," he added, quoting Ronald Reagan about Soviet missile cuts during the Cold War.
Turning to the coming campaign for control of the House of Representatives, Israel said he feels there are 52 congressional districts that are "in play" and in 30 of them, Republican incumbents won by less than 10 percent of the vote.
If, as expected, the seats vacated by Republican Jo Bonner of Alabama and Democrat Ed Markey of Massachusetts remain in their respective parties' hands in special elections later this year, the breakdown will be 234 Republicans to 201 Democrats. Democrats, then, will need to make a net gain of 17.
Recruitment of candidates to achieve this goal is something the campaign chairman was especially proud of.
"In Montana, a district you might think we'd never have a chance at, John Lewis, the district director for Sen. Max Baucus, is running. In New York's 23rd District, [Tompkins County Legislature Chairman] Martha Robertson is challenging [Rep.] Tom Reed. And in, Illinois' 13th District, Ann Callis, a respected former judge, is challenging [Rep.] Rodney Davis," Israel said.
All of the Democratic candidates, insisted Israel, are running as "problem solvers" and "solutionists" because "voters are sick and tired of Republican gridlock."
He cited a DCCC-commissioned poll in the swing districts which showed "that 62 percent disapprove of the job the Republican Congress is doing and 64 percent feel the Republicans are doing too little to cooperate with Democrats in seeking solutions to problems."
Israel urged Democratic candidates to embrace Obamacare with the promise to "make it work." He cited the survey and pointed out that "55 percent of voters prefer a congressman who is trying to improve Obamacare and 40 percent want it repealed," as Republican House members have unanimously voted to do nearly 40 times.
"I'll take that 55 percent anytime," said Israel.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax
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