- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2015

PHILADELPHIA — After three days of plotting political strategy and a fiery pep talk by President Obama, House Democrats left their annual conference here Friday supercharged for a fight with the Republican-run Congress and boasting about winning back the majority in 2016.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, the new chairman of House Democrats’ campaign arm, said Republicans were “overextended” and vulnerable on the election map for 2016, and his troops were excited about the plan to champion middle-class economic issues and demonize Republicans as allies of the wealthy elite.

“Look, we’ve turned a page. We’re going forward. We don’t like being in the minority,” Mr. Lujan, New Mexico Democrat, told reporters at the close of the conference.

He discounted remarks a day earlier by House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, who said he wouldn’t advise “betting a whole lot of money” on his party picking up a net gain of 30 seats need to win a House majority in 2016.

“Maybe even Mr. Hoyer’s quote was taken out of context,” said Mr. Lujan at a press conference that included nearly every member of the House Democratic leadership team except Mr. Hoyer.

Despite painful election loses in November that shrunk the Democratic caucus to the smallest House minority in nearly 100 years, Mr. Lujan professed optimism about putting Republicans on defense and scoring big wins in two years.

“The path that we laid out is pretty simple. It’s majority math,” he said “We know Republicans are overextended. We look at that maps where the president won with strong numbers where Republicans hold those seats. Even in the Senate they are going to be defending 20-plus seats. So we are going forward.”

Republican missteps in the first month of the new Congress also helped shift Democrats to an offensive stance, Mr. Lujan said.

“They are having a messaging nightmare,” he said, referring to Republican leaders scrapping bill on abortion and border security because of divisions within their ranks, as well as GOP infighting over Department of Homeland Security funding and how to fight Mr. Obama’s deportation amnesty.

“We are coming out of this with a unified message. It’s middle-class economics,” said Mr. Lujan, picking up on the phrase used by Mr. Obama to describe his agenda.

When Mr. Obama delivered the keynote speech at the conference Thursday, he implored his fellow Democrats to join him in confronting the Republican Congress and pushing an agenda that includes higher taxes on the rich to pay for tax cuts and other benefits for middle-class families.

“We need to stand up and go on offense and not be defensive about what we believe in,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s why we are Democrats.”


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