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Syria Fight Won't Impact 2014 Elections, Top Democrat Says

“2014 is not going to be a referendum on Syria. It is going to be a referendum on solutions,” Rep. Steve Israel said Tuesday.

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WASHINGTON — The top Democrat in charge of retaking the House of Representatives said Tuesday that despite its unpopularity, President Barack Obama's push for military attacks on Syria isn't likely to cause him or his party too many headaches next November.

"It does not complicate the cycle, at all," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said Tuesday morning during a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

Since Obama announced his plan to attack Syria for using chemical weapons, lawmakers have faced a barrage of overwhelmingly negative feedback from constituents, the vast majority of whom do not support any intervention in the war torn country.

With the White House bringing significant pressure on Democrats and Republicans alike to fall in line behind the president, lawmakers have essentially been frozen in place. And while Russia's 11th hour proposal Monday has given them a reprieve, Israel and other Democrats said regardless of what happens, Syria isn't likely to be on voters minds come November 2014.

"2014 is not going to be a referendum on Syria. It is going to be a referendum on solutions," Israel added.

To be sure, campaign committees have been forced to weave Syria into their early messaging, but it has largely been limited to Republicans attacking Obama for his inept handling of the Syrian situation in general.

Still, a veteran Democratic strategist argued that neither Democrats nor Republicans are likely to face much in the way of voter anger when in comes to Syria. "I don't think Republicans who vote for it will pay a price … [and] I don't think Democrats who vote against it are going to pay a price" next year, the strategist said.

"It was one thing when Democrats voted for a war started by a Republican" as in the case of Iraq, "but in a Democratic primary, saying you stood by President Obama? That's a good place to be … this is not a 2014 campaign issue," the strategist said.

Democrats argued one key reality is that there is still more than a year before the next election and Syria will be a distant memory for voters by then.

"It's just so fluid right now. If the Russia deal is a real deal, I think this evaporates quickly. And I can't imagine voters waking up in a year and 2 months saying I'm going to cast my vote on Syria," Israel said.

Even assuming a strike does occur, Israel argued it isn't likely to have much of an impact on the midterm election. "If the resolution is what we want it to be, if the strike is swift, in and out, focused on degrading and deteriorating their chemical weapons capability … I just don't think people in 2014 are going to be thinking about the debate on a limited military strike in 2013."

John Stanton is a senior national correspondent for BuzzFeed News. In 2014, Stanton was a recipient of the National Press Foundation’s 2014 Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress.

Contact John Stanton at

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