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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 TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' 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 HornBiden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' Energized by polls, House Democrats push deeper into GOP territory Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch MORE (D-Okla.) and Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test Chamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 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 RoseCentrist Democrats got their COVID bill, now they want a vote Lawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by The Air Line Pilots Association - Pence lauds Harris as 'experienced debater'; Trump, Biden diverge over debate prep 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 ClintonBon Jovi to campaign with Biden in Pennsylvania The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in Biden gets late boost with key union endorsement MORE in 2016: GOP Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdTrump predicts GOP will win the House Changing suburbs threaten GOP hold on Texas Bottom line MORE (Texas), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoWarren, Porter to headline progressive fundraiser supporting seven swing state candidates Trump fuels and frustrates COVID-19 relief talks Trump says talks on COVID-19 aid are now 'working out' MORE (N.Y.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickLawmakers urge IRS to get stimulus payments to domestic violence survivors Hopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum 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 MillerPartial disengagement based on democratic characteristics: A new era of US-China economic relations The Hill's Coronavirus Report: CDC predicts US death toll could reach 145,000 by July 11; Premier President Michael Alkire says more resiliency needed in health supply chain Shelley Moore Capito wins Senate primary 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 CrenshawChanging suburbs threaten GOP hold on Texas Biden, Democrats see late opportunity in Texas Dan Crenshaw releases Hollywood-type action movie trailer 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 StefanikWomen gain uneven footholds in Congress, state legislatures Republicans cast Trump as best choice for women The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Pence rips Biden as radical risk 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 EmmerMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments 3 congressmen on Air Force One with Trump took commercial flight after president's diagnosis House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts 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 PelosiOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight | Landlords, housing industry sue CDC to overturn eviction ban Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight 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 BustosEnergized by polls, House Democrats push deeper into GOP territory Cook Report shifts 12 House races, all but one toward Democrats Calls grow for Democrats to ramp up spending in Texas 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.