Dems search for winning playbook
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Democrats are feeling increasingly confident about their chances of winning back the House and Senate in the 2018 midterms.

After a surprising victory in Alabama’s Senate election last month, the party felt like it had momentum. Decisions by a pair of high-profile House GOP incumbents, Reps. Darrell Issa (Calif.) and Ed Royce (Calif.), to announce their retirements has only left the party feeling more confident.

The Hill asked more than a dozen top officials, strategists and lawmakers in the party how Democrats should work the next ten months in Washington and across the country.

Here’s what they said the party’s top priorities and strategies should be between now and November.

Don’t be in a hurry to compromise

Democrats think Republicans have good reason to be worried about the midterms given President Trump’s approval numbers, an endless stream of White House controversies and history: The President’s party typically loses seats in the first midterm of his term.

As a result, Democrats say their congressional leaders should be in no hurry to compromise with Republicans on immigration or Trump’s demands for a wall on the Mexican border; infrastructure; or spending matters ahead of a possible shutdown in January.

“The last thing Democrats should be doing is chasing after elusive bipartisan compromises,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley, a former chief spokesman to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Former Rep. Steve Israel said the focus has to be winning on November, even as lawmakers battle for legislative victories this winter.

“Democrats have a responsibility to govern, but they also have an imperative to win,” said Israel, who led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2014.

“If they can get a deal that reflects their values on certain priorities like DACA, they should,” the former congressman said. “The problem is the lack of a predictable partner or even a manageable outcome. So I wouldn’t let those strategic decisions influence the tactical imperatives of prioritizing the 24 seats they need to win. Which means finishing recruiting, building a ground game, and raising resources to withstand a Republican onslaught.

None of this means Democrats should reject a legislative deal. Indeed, red-state Democrats up for reelection in the Senate are seen as being nervous about pushing things too far in the spending talks.

And conflicts between the House and Senate may be in play.

Arguably, there is more incentive for Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to compromise as he seeks to protect incumbents such as Sen. Claire McCaskill or Joe Donnelly in Missouri and Indiana, respectively.

In the House, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is eyeing a big turnout from the left to deliver a majority to her conference.

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