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 TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 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 HornThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority House GOP secures last-minute change to gun bill GOP maps out early 2020 strategy to retake House MORE (D-Okla.) and Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamFreshman House Dems surge past GOP in money race The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Congressman blasts air horn at Trump official who said seismic air gun tests don't harm whales 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 House Dems surge past GOP in money race McCarthy holds courtesy meeting with ex-Rep. Grimm Convicted Michael Grimm close to new House run: 'I'm 90 percent of the way there' 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 ClintonDavis: The shocking fact that Mueller never would have accused Trump of a crime Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? MORE in 2016: GOP Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFreshman House Dems surge past GOP in money race DCCC opens Texas office to protect House pickups, target vulnerable GOP seats Dems ramp up subpoena threats MORE (Texas), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoCybersecurity Advisory Committee will strengthen national security through a stronger public-private partnership There's a pain bill that's actually sensitive to patients — let's pass it Dogfighting victims need the HEART Act to find their way home MORE (N.Y.) and Brian FitzpatrickBrian K. FitzpatrickFreshman House Dems surge past GOP in money race Cybersecurity Advisory Committee will strengthen national security through a stronger public-private partnership Congress is ready to tackle climate change 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 MillerKerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill Overnight Energy: Interior pick heads toward Senate confirmation | Dems want probe into nominee's role on pesticide report | House climate panel holds first hearing Newly-formed House climate panel holds first hearing 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 CrenshawOcasio-Cortez plans visit to Kentucky despite being disinvited by GOP colleague Ocasio-Cortez knocks Republican over Kentucky trip: 'GOP thought they could catch us with a bluff' Overnight Energy: Collins receives more donations from Texas oil, gas industry than from Maine residents | Interior chief left meetings off schedule | Omar controversy jeopardizes Ocasio-Cortez trip to coal mine 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 StefanikDem gun efforts run into Senate GOP bulwark Overnight Health Care: Lawmakers get deal to advance long-stalled drug pricing bill | House votes to condemn Trump's anti-ObamaCare push | Eight House Republicans join with Dems | Trump officials approve Medicaid expansion in Maine The 8 Republicans who voted against Trump's anti-ObamaCare push 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 EmmerRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP McCarthy holds courtesy meeting with ex-Rep. Grimm Progressive demands put new pressures on Democrats 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrevor Noah on lack of Pelosi nickname from Trump: 'There is a reverence for her' Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? 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 BustosRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP 2020 is the Democrats' to lose — and they very well may DCCC opens Texas office to protect House pickups, target vulnerable GOP seats 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.