Steve Israel Projects Democratic Gains, Says Gay Marriage Not Very Relevant in House Races

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) predicted his party would make gains in this fall's elections but stopped short of guaranteeing it would net the 25 seats needed to make Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Speaker again.

"Whether or not we take the majority back, there will be more Democrats in the House," he told reporters today at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.

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Israel's preferred metaphor of the day was football. He compared Democrats' situation at the beginning of the cycle as "deep on our own 20-yard line." He now assesses his party's House hopes as being on the GOP's 20-yard line.

"The goal is in sight," he said.

As for the top political issue of the day, he described President Barack Obama's stance on gay marriage as not "that relevant" to House races. When pressed on how the president's personal support for gay marriage affects conservative Democrats in red states, Israel encouraged candidates to speak their minds on the issue.

"Let people know how you feel and move on," he said.

He also telegraphed that the party plans to continue hitting the GOP on ethics — a strategy that Democrats deployed successfully in 2006. He repeatedly mentioned the ethical woes of Republican Reps. Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Michael Grimm (N.Y.) and David Rivera (Fla.).

He offered analysis on several races, but he reserved his most cutting remark for Rep. Louise Slaughter's (D-N.Y.) challenger. Slaughter, 82, has yet to return to Capitol Hill after breaking her leg in early April.

“I'd rather have Louise Slaughter with a broken leg than Maggie Brooks with no spine,” he said, referring to the Monroe County executive challenging Slaughter.