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POLITICS: Campaigns

DCCC chair Steve Israel: 'Significant extent' of Republicans are racist

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Joel Gehrke,2014 Elections,IRS,Campaigns,Voter ID Laws,DCCC,NRCC,Steve Israel

Some Republican lawmakers are racist because a "significant extent" of conservative voters are racist, according to the congressman leading the Democratic bid to regain control of the House of Representatives.

"Not all of them, no, of course not," New York Rep. Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told CNN's Candy Crowley when she asked if he believed that Republican congressmen are racist. "But to a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism, and that's unfortunate."

Crowley asked the question because House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did not mince words when she accused Republican House members of racism Thursday for opposing an immigration bill.

"I think race has something to do with the fact that they're not bringing up an immigration bill," she told reporters. "I've heard them say to the Irish, if it were just you, this would be easy."

Crowley suggested that the instances of Democrats playing the race card "looks very much like election-year strategy, trying to get your base out" in the 2014 midterms, which Israel denied.

"We don't need to get our base out, because frankly, we're ready to pass an immigration bill, uh, and, uh, we'd rather pass an immigration bill than worry about the election," he said.

The Democratic National Committee is certainly worried about getting its base out, something they made clear while accusing Republicans of trying to prevent minorities from voting.

"The fundamental notion is that lower turnout means that we'll lose, and so we've got to drive it up as much as possible," DNC spokesman Mo Elleithee told reporters on a conference call in March.

Voter I.D. laws were debated on "Meet the Press" Sunday as well. "If voter I.D. were about voter disenfranchisement, why was African-American turnout so much greater in 2012?" the Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot asked.

"Because people were angry and they decided to exercise their right to vote," Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., replied.

Gigot said Edwards' comment proved his point, that Democrats are telling people that their voting rights are at risk to drive turnout.

"This is about voter mobilization," he said. "This is about playing to the identity politics of Democrats."

Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democratic candidate for New Mexico secretary of state, said during that DNC call that Democrats will use the argument to mobilize their supporters.

"[T]hose individuals in particular are going to be targeted by me or by other campaigns saying, you know, 'Did you know that your right to vote was almost taken away?' " she said. "I think actually, what could end up happening is that what happens as a result of these efforts, that these efforts completely backfire, especially with the Hispanic and Latino community, and that especially we could see increased and improved turnout as a result of that, in response to that."

Democrats aren't the only ones focused on firing up their base. When Crowley asked Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, to respond to the racism charge, he barely wasted a breath on the accusation -- "It's both wrong and unfortunate" -- before raising a topic more congenial to the Tea Party.

"You know, there have been a lot of executive overreaches by this administration," Walden reminded Crowley. "We see the latest with Lois Lerner and the whole IRS scandal. We're now -- now -- finally, getting to see the e-mail traffic back and forth. The American people just want to know the truth. They want to know the truth about what really happened in the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. They want to know what happened in Benghazi. They want to know answers. And that's all we're trying to do."

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