Washington (CNN) - The head of the House Democrats' campaign committee said Wednesday that Democrats are positioned to retake control of the House of Representatives this fall, and rolled out the committee's "red to blue program" touting recruits in competitive races across the country.
"I'm not saying we've got the 25 seats we need in the bank. I'm not saying the majority is a guarantee. I am saying that we are nipping at their heels and we have the potential to overtake them [Republicans] over the next nine months," Rep Steve Israel, D-NY, told reporters Wednesday at a briefing.
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Israel said Democrats initially hoped to compete in 50 races - double the amount needed to win back the majority in the House - by the end of the year, but said that because of the current political landscape he now believes Democrats are positioned to compete in 76 House districts.
On Wednesday the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee released a list of 36 House races in its "red to blue program" that pledges campaign money and resources to top tier candidates. The list included 18 Democratic candidates selected because the committee believes they've raised sufficient money on their own and are positioned to unseat Republicans.
It also lists another 18 seats Democrats believe they can win this fall. In those districts specific Democratic candidates were not identified because many are still engaged in primary contests to determine who will face off against the GOP candidate.
The roster, which Israel said will expand in the coming months, has a heavy emphasis on targeting House Republican freshmen, many of whom rode a wave of tea party frustration with the Democratic led House in 2010 to get elected. And many of the GOP seats Democrats are eyeing are in states where redistricting plans have moved incumbent Republicans into newly configured districts - seven of the "red to blue" are in California, five are in Illinois, and three are in Florida.
[Here's a link of the list of the red to blue districts]
Republicans were quick to predict that the new recruits that Israel touted on Wednesday would ultimately lose because of their party's policies, which they argue voters will oppose in November.
"With Nancy Pelosi announcing this week that Democrats will be running a campaign that takes pride in Obamacare and President Obama's other job destroying policies, the Democrat candidates in these districts are going to find themselves trapped in the very unfortunate situation of being saddled with an agenda Americans have already widely rejected," said Paul Lindsay, Communications Director for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Israel noted that Democrats lost control of the House in 2010 because 9 million independent voters abandoned them and supported GOP candidates. But now he said, based on a Democratic leaning poll, he sees those independents moving back to Democratic column, and that factor gives him reason to believe his party has a good shot to win back the gavel in the House.
Asked if President Obama's strategy to run against Congress could harm Democratic efforts to retake the House, Israel told reporters as long as the President emphasizes he's criticizing the Republican led House it will help his candidates make their case.
But Israel also admitted he had several conversations with the President directly about that strategy, and told reporters that as a result of those discussions, "I believe that he [the President] has been more assertive in using the word 'Republican' when he runs against the Congress."