Campaign

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 Trump 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.

{mosads}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 Horn (D-Okla.) and Joe Cunningham (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 Rose (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 Clinton in 2016: GOP Reps. Will Hurd (Texas), John Katko (N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (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 Miller (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 Crenshaw (Texas) and Dan Meuser (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.

{mosads}The group plans to work closely with Rep. Elise Stefanik (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 Emmer (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 Pelosi (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 Bustos (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.

Tags Brian Fitzpatrick Carol Miller Cheri Bustos Dan Crenshaw Dan Meuser Donald Trump Elise Stefanik Hillary Clinton Joe Cunningham John Katko Kendra Horn Max Rose Nancy Pelosi Tom Emmer Will Hurd

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