By Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The first day of ‘school’ in Philadelphia is Tuesday for Democrats who want to run for Congress or serve as higher-ups on a campaign.

For the party stunned by last year’s election losses, it’s part of a dramatic new push to regain ground.

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These courses are designed to capitalize on what the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hopes is a surge of interest and participation in the midterms and beyond.

“When you have a deeply energized base, when you have a group of independent voters skeptical as to the direction of the country, that usually provides an opportunity for a wave,” says Jake Braun, a trainer for DCCC University.

The big effort by the Dems so early in a campaign cycle is indicative of the gravity of their defeat and ambition for turning the tide.

It’s no coincidence the DCCC is setting up shop in Philly: the party covets the nearby 6th, 7th, and 8th districts in PA and wants to take a stab at turning them blue.

“This is not only to be able to scale up a massive operation where we may have hundreds of campaigns that are competitive but also to be able to find out who the best of the best are,” says Braun, who served as deputy field director for Barack Obama in 2008.

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Those who show the most promise as politicos or operatives go on to even more advanced courses with the Democrats’ House campaign arm in Washington, DC. But for all, says Braun, it’s about learning how to tap into energy and translate that to action in an election.

“I don’t know how we lost this as a party but we did — you do not cede one inch of your district to the opposition,” Braun says.

Braun, the CEO of Cambridge Global Advisors, notes that’s what his classes will focus on — alongside techniques for talking with voters, the press, and using social media.

“In ’16, Republicans did some truly brilliant things related to social media and targeting that I think the Democrats frankly kind of forgot — some of the things that won them Congress and the White House.”

The training program, open only to those who’ve applied and are invited by the DCCC, begins in Philadelphia on May 2.

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