2010 may have been the year the Tea Party reigned, but top Democrats are planning to revive their tactic from 2012 and focus on the group this cycle as well. Their aim is to paint Republicans as extremists and the cause of obstruction and dysfunction ahead of 2014 midterm elections.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-NY) outlined his early recruitment strategy to a group of lobbying and trade association groups, as well as other allied organizations. Reporters also attended.
"2012 was a referendum on President Obama and Gov. Romney," Israel said. "2014 will be a referendum about one thing: tea party extremism. That's the deal, that's the campaign, that's the cycle. Do you think these tea party extremists are making life better for you? Are they growing our economy, do you feel more secure with their agenda or is our agenda of solutions and progress a better deal for you?"
"We are recruiting solutionists to antidote tea party extremists," he said, repeating the phrase "extremists."
But Israel didn't go so far as to predict Democrats would take the 17 House seats needed to flip control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"I can't tell you today we will be north or south of 17 seats," Israel said. "I can tell you we're doing everything we can to put it in play."
They'll get some campaign help from President Obama, according to Israel.
"He made commitments that he would help us raise the resources we need," Israel said. "The White House is very good on the president's commitment…And the president is very good on the president's commitment."
Israel added that President Obama has asked the DCCC to "keep him apprised on some of our recruiting priorities and we've been sharing that information with the White House and they have been very receptive."
Israel touched on themes sure to pop up during the 2014 fight to regain the House including a "civil war in the Republican Party," saying the fight has made the party "inherently unstable."
"It's the Tea Party, but it's more their agenda," Israel said. "It's an agenda that says we will cut Medicare, but we will not invest in rebuilding a single bridge or a single highway, but we will continue to protest tax incentives to ship jobs to China so that is their agenda and we will make that agenda a referendum."
As for one of the closest races of 2012, which pit tea party leader Michele Bachmann against Jim Graves - Bachmann won by a single percentage point - Israel acknowledged the DCCC could have done more and said he believes Graves will try to take Bachmann on again next year.
"Jim came very, very close to winning. We are very upbeat about his prospects in 2014." Israel said. "You are always going to have regrets, like any football coach there are plays you look back on and say, 'Gee maybe I should have gone a different play.'"
Midterm elections are traditionally tougher on the party in the White House. In the 2010 midterm, Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives. That means they could face an uphill climb next year too, but Israel said his party won't be caught by surprise this time. They have already had nearly 100 recruiting meetings stressing elections are "not won on election night," but "18 months before."
He highlighted a few of the party's top recruits naming New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia and Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff as two that are already on board.