Top Dem campaign official: House is in play for 2018

Top Dem campaign official: House is in play for 2018
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — The chairman of House Democrats’ campaign arm said Wednesday that control of the House is in play for the 2018 midterm elections, a statement that comes in the wake of a disappointing loss for Democrats in Georgia.

This is that first time that Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) has declared the House in play next year. In a memo circulated to staff and obtained by The Hill, Luján points to polling that reflects a Democratic edge in a number of GOP-held swing seats.

The memo specifically points to districts where GOP incumbents won by double digits in 2016. Luján argues that Democrats have an early upper-hand in several competitive districts, including GOP-leaning seats now held by Reps. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderElection Countdown: Latest on the 2018 Senate money race | Red-state Dems feeling the heat over Kavanaugh | Dem doubts about Warren | Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill | Why Puerto Ricans in Florida could swing Senate race The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Trump takes off gloves at NATO summit LGBTQ advocates to protest Pence visit to Kansas City MORE (R-Kan.) and Martha McSally (R-Ariz.).

“We have a unique opportunity to flip control of the House of Representatives in 2018,” Luján said in Wednesday’s memo. “This is about much more than one race: the national environment, unprecedented grassroots energy and impressive Democratic candidates stepping up to run deep into the battlefield leave no doubt that Democrats can take back the House next fall.”

Democrats have felt emboldened about expanding the House battlefield in the 2018 midterms, in part because recent generic House ballot polls have shown Democrats gaining ground. But Tuesday's defeat in the Georgia race dealt a major blow to Democrats, marking their fourth failed attempt to target a GOP-held seat in a special election this year.

The party spent tens of millions of dollars backing Democrat Jon Ossoff in the race to fill the seat last held by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. The suburban Atlanta district had been a GOP stronghold for decades, but President Trump won it only narrowly in 2016, suggesting an opening for Democrats.

While Republicans vastly underperformed in the special elections compared to prior years, Republican Karen Handel still pulled out a victory.

Democrats are now dusting themselves off after a tough string of losses in this year’s special elections, with the party left frustrated by Democrats’ lack of a single message.

Looking toward 2018, Luján says the party is going to focus on recruitment. Senior DCCC staff and alumni plan to head to targeted districts to find “top-tier candidates to fill the remaining holes in our map.”

“We have our work cut out for us. Taking back the majority will not be easy,” the New Mexico Democrat said. “Despite the grassroots energy and the winds at our backs, we have a number of real structural disadvantages in these districts.”