The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sees an opportunity in the ongoing impasse over the federal budget to expand the number House districts in which Democrats can compete in the 2014 midterm elections, Rep. Steve Israel, the committee's chairman, said Thursday.
Israel, D-N.Y., declined to name specific congressional districts or recruits Democrats may add to their target list, pending an official announcement in the next few days. But he confirmed that some districts formerly not in play are now being reconsidered as "a direct result of the shutdown."
"There were a number of districts that were pretty red, that didn’t seem winnable, where top-tier Democratic candidates told us that they didn’t see a path and therefore they did not run," Israel told the Washington Examiner. "As a result of this environment, the terrain in those districts has changed fundamentally, and there is now strong, renewed interest in those districts, like top-tier Democratic candidates, in running."
Last month, Israel said internal Democratic polling indicated that the public would hold Republicans responsible if debates over government funding and the nation's debt ceiling devolve into chaos -- and, indeed, recent polls from the Associated Press and Gallup have reflected such movement in public opinion.
The dysfunction at the heart of the current congressional impasse might not only be dragging down Congress's approval rating, but also sending some current lawmakers running for the exits.
On Wednesday, longtime Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., announced he would not run for re-election in 2014, listing his health and time with his family as reasons for his departure. But he also noted the widening partisan divide within the legislative branch.
"It's a different Congress," Young told the Tampa Bay Times.
Whether other lawmakers of either party yield to similar frustrations is a yet-certain variable in the mid-term elections.
"I don’t know if that’s why [Young] retired, but the fact that he would say that suggests that even many members of the Republican caucus believe that the environment has become very difficult," Israel said.
So far, Israel said, no House Democrats have decided to retire because of their frustration with Congress.
"I haven't heard of a single one," he said.
Update: A spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee responded Thursday, “Steve Israel continues to live in the Neighborhood of Make Believe."