President Obama is the main target in the Republican Party’s attempt to keep control of the House, GOP leaders said Monday.
By focusing on Obama and the effects of his first term, Republicans can not only save their majority in the House, but strengthen it, said National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas).
Republicans also argue Democrats really need 37 seats — not the 25 they claim — to take back control of the lower chamber.
Democrats have laid out a "Drive to 25" plan to show that their number of potential pickup opportunities far exceeds the 25 they must flip to regain the majority in November.
But Sessions and his deputies presented reporters with their version of the math in the House, suggesting that Democrats are poised to lose at least 12 seats they currently control. That would mean in order to produce a net increase of 25 seats, Democrats would have to flip a total of 37 GOP-held seats.
Republicans pointed to four Democratic retirements in districts that are likely to go GOP: two in North Carolina and one each in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Add that to the net gain of one new seat Republicans picked up due to reapportionment and Republicans are up five seats, Sessions said.
In another nine districts that are "good bets" for Republicans, the GOP estimated it would pick up four seats, in addition to another three out of 11 competitive seats. Add those together and it paints a much less rosy picture for Democrats, Sessions said.
Sessions also announced that the NRCC had raised $5.1 million in February and has $20.6 million in the bank, which the committee said put it $4.5 million ahead of what it had saved up by this point two years ago.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $6.3 million in February, putting it more than $1 million ahead of the NRCC, despite being in the minority. But Democrats have about $4 million less in their war chest than the NRCC does. Both committees were free of debt heading into March.
DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said Republicans will see their prospect dim further once they double down on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget proposal.
"Nearly every Republican incumbent has to answer for trying to end Medicare while trying to protect big oil and millionaires," Crider said. "As much as Pete Sessions might want to pontificate, the fact is that voters have buyer's remorse."
Sessions said a renewed focus on Obama's healthcare reforms would help Republicans shore up their majority, by calling attention to increasing costs for families and taxpayers that Democratic policies have caused. He dismissed any concerns that the recent focus on contraception coverage, where Republicans have been painted as anti-women, would backfire for House Republicans.
Asked by The Hill whether the NRCC still had confidence in Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), the committee’s finance vice chairman, Sessions said Buchanan was a close friend whom he entrusted with an important job.
"He is doing his job, he's very good at his job, and I believe that it's only political fodder that continues this debate," he said. "Vern's been cleared by any number of people, including the [Federal Election Commission], who came back and did not, after looking at it, have anything negative to say."
The FEC closed an investigation of an alleged straw-donor scheme involving a car dealership Buchanan owned, but FEC attorneys said the evidence came close to supporting a finding that it was more likely than not that Buchanan broke the law. Buchanan is also being investigated by the House Ethics Committee for failing to disclose his positions in 17 entities in his financial disclosures.