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 TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff 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 HornLiberals keep foot on the gas on impeachment Here are the House Democrats who aren't backing Trump impeachment inquiry Centrist Democrats fret over impeachment gamble MORE (D-Okla.) and Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamDemocratic lawmaker fires back after NRCC mocks him for getting marriage counseling Here are the House Democrats who aren't backing Trump impeachment inquiry Here are the Democrats who aren't co-sponsoring an assault weapons ban 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 RoseHillicon Valley: FCC approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Dems wrangle over breaking up Big Tech at debate | Critics pounce as Facebook's Libra stumbles | Zuckerberg to be interviewed by Fox News | Twitter details rules for political figures' tweets Democratic lawmakers press for white supremacist groups to be labeled foreign terrorist organizations Bottom Line 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 ClintonGOP warns Graham letter to Pelosi on impeachment could 'backfire' Hillary Clinton praises former administration officials who testified before House as 'gutsy women' Third-quarter fundraising sets Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg apart MORE in 2016: GOP Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDemocrats claim new momentum from intelligence watchdog testimony Romney: Trump requesting Biden investigation from China, Ukraine 'wrong and appalling' GOP lawmaker: 'It is terrible' for Trump to call on China to probe Biden MORE (Texas), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHacker conference report details persistent vulnerabilities to US voting systems Hillicon Valley: Senate passes bill to boost cyber help for agencies, businesses | Watchdog warns Energy Department failing to protect grid | FTC sues Match for allegedly conning users Senate approves bill to boost cyber assistance for federal agencies, private sector MORE (N.Y.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by USAA — Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pushed for her ouster GOP group calls out five House Republicans to speak up on Ukraine On The Money: Senate confirms Scalia as Labor chief | Bill with B in wall funding advanced over Democrats' objections | Lawyers reach deal to delay enforcement of NY tax return subpoena 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 CrenshawGeorge Conway hits Republicans for not saying Trump's name while criticizing policy The absurdity of President Trump picking the Democratic nominee Missouri Republican wins annual craft brewing competition for lawmakers 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 StefanikCheney slated to introduce bill to place sanctions on Turkey Conservative lawmakers demand Schiff's recusal from Trump impeachment inquiry Bipartisan lawmakers who visited Syrian border slam Trump's 'rash decision' 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 EmmerGOP searches for impeachment boogeyman House GOP battleground poll finds opponents narrowly outnumber impeachment supporters Democrat running for Hurd's seat in Texas raises M in third quarter 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 PelosiLawmakers, social media users praise photo of Pelosi confronting Trump Trump turns Pelosi's 'meltdown' criticism around: 'She is a very sick person' Trump threat lacks teeth to block impeachment witnesses 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 BustosHouse Democratic campaign arm raises .4 million in third quarter Pelosi tells Democrats to focus on Constitution, not Trump GOP ratchets up 2020 attacks as impeachment storm grows 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.