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House Democrats identify vulnerable incumbents for 2018 cycle

House Democrats identify vulnerable incumbents for 2018 cycle
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

The House Democratic campaign arm on Monday announced the 19 members considered most vulnerable in the 2018 election cycle who will benefit from its incumbent protection program.

More members could be added or removed from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) “Frontline Program,” which provides candidates with extra fundraising and campaign infrastructure support.

Democrats need to win 24 seats to win back the House in 2018, which will mean they need to protect virtually all of their incumbents in addition to flipping GOP-held districts. It’s a tall order after House Democrats flipped only nine seats in 2016, with a net gain of just six.

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The list includes most of the 12 Democrats who represent districts won by President Trump in November. But four such lawmakers are notably absent: Reps. Tim Walz (Minn.), Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindHouse Democrats hit Republicans on mobile billboard at GOP retreat House Republicans pressuring Democrats to return donations from Ocasio-Cortez Race debate grips Congress MORE (Wis.), Matt Cartwright (Pa.) and Collin Peterson (Minn.).

Kind, Cartwright and Peterson are considered strong incumbents who generally haven’t faced tough general election challenges in recent years, despite representing districts won by Trump. Kind ran unopposed in last year's election.

Walz, meanwhile, is considering a run for Minnesota governor in 2018 after narrowly winning reelection to the House last year. He said last month that he expects to make a decision about a possible gubernatorial bid by April. 

The other eight Democrats in Trump-backing districts are on the DCCC’s list: Reps. Rick Nolan (Minn.), Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.), Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosDemocrats confront difficult prospects for midterms Democrat Cheri Bustos to retire from Congress GOP campaign chief confident his party will win back House MORE (Ill.), Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), Tom O’Halleran (Ariz.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.) and Dave Loebsack (Iowa).

The rest are in districts won by Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCongress won't end the wars, so states must Democrats say it's up to GOP to stop Trump 2024 Hillary Clinton to speak at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders summit MORE but still considered competitive next year: Reps. Ami BeraAmerish (Ami) Babulal BeraHouse GOP campaign arm adds to target list Biological ticking time bombs: Lessons from COVID-19 Former GOP lawmaker jumps into California recall election MORE (Calif.), Salud Carbajal (Calif.), Charlie Crist (Fla.), Elizabeth Esty (Conn.), Ruben Kihuen (Nev.), Ann McLane Kuster (N.H.), Stephanie Murphy (Fla.), Scott Peters (Calif.), Raul Ruiz (Calif.), Brad Schneider (Ill.) and Tom Suozzi (N.Y.).

“Each of these Democrats knows how to win tough races — proven by their success in a difficult national environment in 2016,” DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said in a statement. “Incumbent protection is a critical part of the DCCC’s offensive strategy, and will allow us to maximize our gains in 2018.”

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) released an initial list of 36 Democratic targets last month that includes most of the lawmakers in the DCCC’s Frontline Program.

Democrats have indicated they’re targeting 59 GOP seats, focusing on Republicans representing districts carried by Clinton or narrowly won by Trump. A total of 23 GOP lawmakers represent Clinton districts, nearly the number of seats Democrats need to win the House majority.

The NRCC so far has named 10 members, most of whom represent districts won by Clinton, to its incumbent protection program.

The NRCC sought to warn that the Democratic incumbents prioritized by the DCCC’s Frontline Program might face more than tough general election challenges in competitive districts.

“These Democrats have a difficult balancing act ahead of them. They not only have to worry about competitive challenges from Republican opponents, but also from potential primary opponents backed by the activist left itching to wipe out Democrats who don’t sufficiently adhere to their radical agenda,” said NRCC spokesman Jesse Hunt.

This story was updated at 1:44 p.m.