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Posted at 7:25 AM ET, 02/16/2011

Steve Israel's alumni association

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) has formed an alumni association of members defeated in the landslide 2010 election in an effort to capitalize on their political knowledge and connections to help the party regain the House majority next November.

The group, which includes members who lost their re-election bids as well as those who retired last cycle, first met during last year's lame-duck session of Congress. They now huddle by phone once or twice a month with Israel and DCCC recruiting chair Allyson Schwartz (Pa.) leading the chat. Roughly 90 percent of the Democrats who lost in 2010 participate.

The group amounts to part intelligence-sharing operation, part recruitment tool for Israel.

With so many Democrats ousted from office, Israel now has smart political people in almost every state in the country with their ear to the ground.

Many of these former Members spent years building up their political bona fides and know the players in their district -- or even their state -- far better than any D.C.-based strategist. They also hear every rumor that comes across the transom -- helpful fodder for Israel and his team at the DCCC who are beginning to build opposition research dossiers on Republicans.

Staying in touch with those who have recently lost is also a good way for Israel to smooth the recruitment path for those former Members the DCCC would like to see run again.

In 2010, five Republicans who had lost in 2006 or 2008 -- Reps. Tim Walberg (Mich.), Steve Pearce (N.M.), Steve Chabot (Ohio), Charlie Bass (N.H.) and Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.) -- came back and reclaimed their old House seats

While not every Democratic member who lost in 2010 will be a top priority recruit for Israel, staying in touch with such a wide group of former members allows him to gauge levels of interest and push the right buttons for those who the DCCC wants in races.

The alumni group is the latest evidence of Israel trying to make lemonade out of lemons during his thus-far brief tenure at the DCCC. He has repeatedly pledged to go on offense in 2010, insisting that the more than five dozen seats the party lost last cycle means oodles of opportunities in 2012.


It's too early in the cycle to know whether Israel's aggressive outreach to his former colleagues will pay off. But it's an example of his effort to quickly rally the troops after a 2010 that all Democrats are trying to forget.

Kaine for Senate, after all?: Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine looks like he might be a candidate for Senate, after all.

Kaine told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday that he would speak with President Obama this week to gauge the president's preference about whether he should run for retiring Sen. Jim Webb's (D-Va.) seat. (Kaine is a former governor of Virginia.)

It seems odd that Kaine would mention such a thing unless he is seriously considering it. And he's also set to speak at the state Democratic party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on Saturday -- another sign that he might be leaning in that direction. And yet, conversations with Democratic operatives in the state suggest that Kaine has been a remains disinclined to run. It's not clear whether a conversation with the President can change that.

Former Sen. George Allen is running on the GOP side although he will likely face a primary fight.

Ted Jr. out in Connecticut: The son of longtime former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) will not be running in the open Senate race in Connecticut.

Ted Kennedy Jr. (D) announced Tuesday night that he will not run for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) seat.

"It's something I've thought a lot about, and I think at this point in time, I'll have to say that I think I'll have to wait before I make the plunge into a campaign," Kennedy told WFSB-TV, citing his young family.

Kennedy's decision to wait is probably just as well for Connecticut Democrats, who are already facing a high-profile primary between former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and Rep. Chris Murphy.

On the GOP side, former wrestling executive Linda McMahon and former Rep. Rob Simmons are considering running again.


Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) says there is a "distinct possibility" that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) will run for Senate in 2012, despite the serious injuries she sustained in an attempted assassination last month.

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) may be Democrats' backup plan if Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) doesn't run for Sen. John Ensign's (R) seat.

It sounds like Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert (R) will run for Senate -- at least, according to a cryptic hint from Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) to the student newspaper at Claremont McKenna College.

Montana state Sen. Larry Jent is considering joining a crowded GOP primary for governor. Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) is term-limited.

Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz and Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul are being mentioned as potential Democratic candidates for the seat of recently resign Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.). State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin is the early frontrunner on the GOP side and would be favored in the special election.

New York Magazine reports Sarah Palin has parted ways with longtime aides Jason Recher and Doug McMarlin. The news comes after Palin hired a chief of staff this week.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be the new policy vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association.


"Thune in 2012?" -- Robert Costa

"Poll accuracy held steady in 2010" -- Mark Blumenthal, Huffington Post

"House incumbents, beware" -- Charlie Cook, Cook Political Report

"Will Landry last?" -- Stephanie Grace, New Orleans Times-Picayune

"Daniels and the austerity trap" -- Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake  | February 16, 2011; 7:25 AM ET
Categories:  House  
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Next: House Democrats to hold Giffords fundraiser

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