NEW NRCC Memo: Even DCCC Chair Steve Israel Is In Trouble

February 6, 2014

TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Liesl Hickey, NRCC Executive Director

SUBJECT: Even Steve Israel is in trouble


To understand how bad the environment is for House Democrats, DCCC Chairman Steve Israel need only look at his own district, where a new poll shows that even he should be nervous.

The NY-03 survey is just one in a new round of polls conducted by Harper Polling in traditionally Democrat-leaning congressional districts. These polls show that Democrat incumbents are weak, voters in these districts prefer a Republican, and President Obama is underwater. These are districts that President Obama won in 2012 – illustrating just how grave the Democrats’ problems are.

The two biggest takeaways: Voters in these districts don’t like President Obama (his disapproval is above 50 percent in all) – but they like their Democrat congressman even less. Of the incumbents, none hit 40 percent on the critical question of whether they deserve reelection and all of them have approval ratings in the 30s (lower than Obama’s number).

These polls – also conducted in WA-01, CA-26 and NY-21 – prove that Republicans have the opportunity to expand the playing field and stay on offense in 2014. As a result, our recruitment efforts are ongoing, and we see a real opportunity to run competitive races in these districts, keeping the Democrats on defense.

Take, for example, Democrat Suzan DelBene in WA-01. Within the Beltway, DelBene is generally thought to be in a safe district – one where Obama received more than 54 percent of the vote in 2012. But now the president’s disapproval is at 51 percent, and only 36 percent of voters believe DelBene deserves reelection.

The same goes for Democrat Julia Brownley in CA-26 – the weakest of the bunch. Brownley only registers 32 percent on whether she deserves reelection. While the president received 54 percent of the vote in 2012, his disapproval is now up at 52 percent. In fact, one of Brownley’s potential opponents, Republican Jeff Gorell, is already beating her in a head-to-head match-up: 44 to 42.

Meanwhile, in the open seat of NY-21, President Obama’s disapproval sits at a stunning 55 percent. No wonder the DCCC had another recruitment fail there this week.

And yes, the problems for Democrats are even reflective in Congressman Israel’s district – generally thought to be a lock for the DCCC chairman. Yet only 33 percent of voters believe Israel deserves reelection, and 52 percent disapprove of President Obama’s performance.

Israel and his colleagues all enter the election year with incredibly weak approval numbers, and they will all be forced to run with an unpopular president spouting an unpopular agenda.

The Democrats in these seats spend a lot of time defending President Obama and his policies. But as the numbers below suggest, they might want to reconsider.


Julia Brownley, CA-26 (PVI, D+4)

Generic Ballot

GOP: 45%

Democrat: 42%


Jeff Gorell/Julia Brownley Head to Head

Gorell: 44%

Brownley: 42% 


Brownley Job Approval

Approve: 32%

Disapparove: 32%


Brownley Reelect

Deserves reelection: 32%

Someone else: 42%

Check and Balance

Republican check: 48%

Democrat ally: 42%


Obama Job Approval

Approve: 38%

Disapprove: 52%

Harper Polling; January 28-29, 2014; N=586; MOE +/- 4.05%               


Steve Israel, NY-03 (PVI, D+2)

Generic Ballot

GOP: 43%

Democrat: 42%


Steve Israel Job Approval

Approve: 37%

Disapprove: 27%


Israel Reelect

Deserves re-election: 33%

Someone else: 36%


Check and Balance

Republican check: 47%

Democrat Ally: 43%


Obama Job Approval

Approve: 39%

Disapprove: 52%

Harper Polling; January 28-29, 2014; N=623; MOE +/- 3.92%


Open, NY-21 (PVI, EVEN)

Generic Ballot

Republican: 46%

Democrat: 34%


Check and balance

Republican check: 51%

Dem ally: 31%


Obama Job Approval

Approve: 32%

Disapprove: 55%

Harper Polling; January 27-28; N=1,005; MOE +/- 3.09%


Suzan DelBene, WA-01 (PVI, D+4)

Generic Ballot

GOP: 46%

Dem: 43%


Suzan DelBene Job Approval

Approve: 34%

Disapprove: 32%


DelBene Reelect

Deserves reelection: 36%

Someone else: 39%


Check and Balance

Republican Check: 47%

Dem Ally: 43%


Obama Job Approval

Approve: 40%

Disapprove: 51%

Harper Polling; January 27-28, 2014; N=779; MOE +/- 3.51%