GOP maps out early 2020 strategy to retake House

Republicans are crafting an early strategy to take back the House in 2020, zeroing in on districts carried by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE that recently flipped to Democrats and starting a recruitment process that will have a heavy emphasis on female candidates.

After losing 40 GOP-held seats in the 2018 midterm elections, House Republicans will need to rebound in many of the suburban districts where Trump remains unpopular among some college-educated and female voters — this time with the president at the top of the ticket.

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The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) will target the 31 Democrats running in Trump districts, especially several seats they view as most ripe for the taking: freshman Reps. Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornRepublicans attempt to amend retirement savings bill to include anti-BDS language The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority House GOP secures last-minute change to gun bill MORE (D-Okla.) and Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamEx-congressman launching PAC to defend Dem seats in 2020 Ex-congressman launching PAC to defend Dem seats in 2020 GOP leader, Ocasio-Cortez give boost to lawmaker pay hike MORE (D-S.C.), who shocked the political world with upset victories in GOP strongholds.

Some other targets they see as more promising pickup opportunities include the seats won by freshman Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah), Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.) and Max RoseMax RoseFreshman Democrats call on McConnell to hold vote on election reform bill Freshman Democrats call on McConnell to hold vote on election reform bill The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems make last dash for debate stage MORE (D-N.Y.).

But the NRCC will also focus on its responsibility as an incumbent protection program and will prioritize defending the three GOP congressmen left in seats won by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally MORE in 2016: GOP Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Lawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing MORE (Texas), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHouse conservative's procedural protest met with bipartisan gripes House conservative's procedural protest met with bipartisan gripes There is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen MORE (N.Y.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickLawmakers push to permanently ban automatic pay raises for members of Congress Lawmakers push to permanently ban automatic pay raises for members of Congress GOP leader, Ocasio-Cortez give boost to lawmaker pay hike MORE (Pa.).

Many of these recently flipped Trump districts are in the heart of the suburbs, where more centrist voters have moved away from the party since 2016. But Republicans argue that the push to the left in the emerging 2020 Democratic field could hamper some of these newly elected Democratic House members in more moderate districts.

The NRCC has also begun early recruitment efforts focused on drafting a more diverse slate of candidates, including women and minorities. The ranks of female lawmakers dwindled for Republicans in the 116th Congress, and they added only one new woman to their caucus, Rep. Carol MillerCarol Devine MillerGOP women's super PAC blasts 'out of touch' candidate in NC runoff GOP amps up efforts to recruit women candidates Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill MORE (R-W.Va.).

“A priority has to be placed on recruiting women that can win because we elected more people named Dan than women this past election,” a former NRCC aide said, referring to how there are more new Republican members named Dan — Reps. Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawHonor veterans by considering alternatives to the foreign policy status quo Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Behar clashes with Dan Crenshaw on Trump's Charlottesville comments MORE (Texas) and Dan MeuserDaniel (Dan) MeuserMORE (Pa.) — than newRepubican members who are women.

Winning for Women, a Republican group that aims to elect women to office, has already begun its own candidate identification and recruitment for 2020, according to a spokeswoman.

The group, which formed in late 2017, is also working to build up their national membership, which surpassed 300,000 at the end of 2018.

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The group plans to work closely with Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikOvernight Defense: Pompeo blames Iran for oil tanker attacks | House panel approves 3B defense bill | Trump shares designs for red, white and blue Air Force One House panel approves 3B defense policy bill House panel approves 3B defense policy bill MORE (R-N.Y.), who said she’ll use her leadership political action committee to elevate female candidates in primaries this cycle.

Stefanik, who was the NRCC’s recruitment chair for the 2018 cycle, has been especially vocal about the need to recruit and back more female Republican candidates, including at the primary level, which has raised some concerns given the NRCC’s long-standing policy of neutrality in primaries.

In a December interview with Roll Call, new NRCC Chairman Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerDCCC chair: Brooks retirement signals challenge for GOP women DCCC chair: Brooks retirement signals challenge for GOP women Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection MORE (Minn.) called Stefanik’s strategy of playing in primaries “a mistake,” saying “it shouldn’t be just based on looking for a specific set of ingredients — gender, race, religion.”

The comment generated strong pushback, including from Stefanik, who fired back on Twitter that she “wasn’t asking for permission.” Emmer later clarified he had only meant talking about NRCC involvement in primaries. He’s planning to sit down with the 13 female Republican members for a listening session, according to Politico.

Stefanik is relaunching her leadership PAC, E-PAC, at an event on Thursday where top Republicans will be in attendance, including Emmer and the NRCC’s new executive director, Parker Poling.

The NRCC and the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), the super PAC tied to House Republican leadership, also plan a strategy of going after freshman Democrats who ran on opposing Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOcasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment GOP nervous that border wall fight could prompt year-end shutdown MORE (D-Calif.) as Speaker, but who ended up voting for her during the leadership vote earlier this month.

The NRCC sent out text messages noting each of those Democrats, while CLF ran a six-figure ad campaign that individually attacked each of those Democratic lawmakers.

While Republicans still plan to keep the focus on Pelosi — and think it’s an effective strategy — many Republicans believe the party relied too heavily on that messaging, including Emmer, who said the party was “way too focused” on attacking Pelosi in 2018.

“The problem that happened in the past cycle was that was the only issue it seemed like a lot of those candidates ran on,” said a Republican operative close to House races. “Pelosi is a component, but it’s just as incumbent on candidates to make their races on more than just that.”

Meanwhile, Democrats are mapping out a plan to shore up their newly won House majority in 2020 — a map that runs through more than two dozen districts where Republicans won in 2018 by less than 5 points.

But Democrats will also need to fend off Republican challenges in a number of narrowly won swing districts that flipped from GOP control in 2018.

Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosDCCC chair: Brooks retirement signals challenge for GOP women DCCC chair: Brooks retirement signals challenge for GOP women Democrats set to use McConnell's legislative graveyard against him MORE (D-Ill.), the new Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairwoman, told Politico in an interview earlier this month that the group’s main goal is to protect those incumbents.

But she also vowed that Democrats would continue to play offense in 2020.

“There will not be one battleground district, not one, that we will leave unprotected or uncontested,” she told Politico.