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Democrats: House is in play in 2012

May 26, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
(David Duprey, AP )

Kathy Hochul's victory in the New York special election Tuesday has prompted Democrats to proclaim confidence they can win back the House majority in 2012.

"I did not expect to be able to tell you that the House was in play as early as May. But today I can tell you that I fundamentally believe that the House of Representatives is in play," Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Democrats' campaign committee, told reporters Thursday.

Israel, along with Democratic Senate Campaign Committee chair Patty Murray of Washington, argued that the Republicans have themselves to blame for overreaching beyond their mandate, radically altering the campaign map.

"Americans were told when Republicans took the majority in the House and won races across the country that they were going to focus on jobs and the economy. Clearly that’s not where there focused," Murray said. "They're focused on changing Medicare as we know it today in order to protect the wealthiest Americans and tax subsidies for the oil companies and they’re wealthy friends."

Israel said Democrats are not being "cocky" after Tuesday's win in the traditionally-Republican 26th District of New York. That victory "will inform our strategy. It will not be our strategy," he said. But it's clear that the plan by Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to overhaul Medicare figures prominently in their plan.

“We served notice on Republicans that where there is a Democratic candidate who will  support Medicare, we will take the fight to those districts, no matter how high the odds, no matter how steep the climb," Israel said.

Ryan said there are 97 other seats held by Republicans that are historically more moderate than the district they won Tuesday, which serves as a starting point for the party's electoral strategy.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that the Medicare proposal did play a small part in the party's loss. But one day after most Senate Democrats failed to vote for a set of budget proposals -- including President Obama's -- Republicans are eager to cast Democrats as lacking the courage to make a clear stand on the tough fiscal choices ahead.

"Steve Israel is free to spike the football 18 months before election day, basing his 2012 strategy on one race that centered around misleading Medicare tactics, but Republicans, in contrast, will continue talking to voters about what they care about most and that's our plans for job creation and reversing the economic disaster that President Obama and his party created over the last three years," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Joanna Burgos said in a statement.

Democrats said they would "enter into a responsible, constructive dialogue" on how to improve Medicare, but "will not negotiate an end to Medicare."

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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