How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle

How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle

Republicans face an uphill climb to take back the House majority in November, with the battle centered around 30 key districts that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE won in 2016 but that Democrats flipped in 2018.

The party must win a net gain of 18 seats to flip the House and will have to account for the redistricting in North Carolina, which will endanger two GOP-held seats, as well as retiring Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHillicon Valley: Oracle confirms deal with TikTok to be 'trusted technology provider' | QAnon spreads across globe, shadowing COVID-19 | VA hit by data breach impacting 46,000 veterans House approves bill to secure internet-connected federal devices against cyber threats House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts MORE’s (R-Texas) district, which Democrats are favored to take.

GOP candidates may have an advantage in a number of these districts with President Trump bringing enthusiasm and a potential fundraising boon.

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However, Democrats are feeling a surge of confidence with former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Democratic groups using Bloomberg money to launch M in Spanish language ads in Florida Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle MORE at the top of the ticket and have an opportunity to run on health care— a policy area that helped them clinch the House in 2018 — amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) said this week that its Frontline members, a group of 42 majority freshman House lawmakers who flipped Trump-won districts in 2018, raked in a total of over $31.1 million in the first quarter of the year.

Additionally, the committee announced that every frontline member outraised their challengers, and that 14 Democratic challengers outraised Republican incumbents or open seat challengers in the same period.

"So much is tied to the top of the ticket, so much. Raising money and staying competitive with your Democratic opponent in terms of fundraising is an absolute must just to get you in the conversation. But then a lot of it will come down to how the top of your ticket does in your district. There will not be a ton of people outperforming there their party's nominee,” one senior GOP operative said.

“Money is such a crucial factor in the fact that Democrats are doing so well," the operative added, saying they can fundraise off the party's strong distaste for the president. "Republicans need to keep pace in the money race just to even like get close to where they need to be.”

However, Republicans say that despite being outspent by Democrats, they are still taking an offensive strategy.

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“We knew from the beginning we were probably going to be outspent. It doesn’t seem like that’s going to change anytime soon,” NRCC spokesman Michael McAdams said. “Our focus is keeping it close, and in November, we’ll know if we kept it close enough to take back the House.”

Republicans also point to recruitment, with one operative highlighting the diversity and number of female candidates running, adding they feel particularly strong in flipping New York's 22nd District, New Mexico's 2nd District and Oklahoma's 5th District. All three are districts won by Trump but flipped by Democrats in 2018.

“If you look at the battlefield of how we take back the majority, you have this initial slate of races where Trump did really well in 2016, and where we already know we’re going to do well in 2020,” a House Republican strategist told The Hill.

“Then you also have a tier of more traditional swing seats where Republicans needed to recruit diverse, talented candidates to run competitive races – and Republicans have absolutely done that,” the strategist added.

In addition to the House GOP’s campaign arm, top outside groups including the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a PAC dedicated to electing House Republicans, have started reserving airtime in top races since last week.

Republicans have already targeted Democrats on key issues like Trump's impeachment. However, the coronavirus outbreak will likely force both parties to tailor their messaging, with Democrats hitting Trump on his response and Republicans defending it.

The pandemic has opened the door for Democrats to hone in on health care, an issue they won handily on in 2018.

“During impeachment through the presidential primary [Democrats] said healthcare was going to be the major thing, and now given the [coronavirus] news, healthcare has only come more into focus,” one Democratic strategist said.

The DCCC has already made healthcare a focus of their ads, running a 25-second advertisement in the beginning of March targeting the affordability of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

“No one wants to vote for the guy working to take health care away from sick people – especially during a pandemic,” DCCC national press secretary Robyn Patterson said in a statement. “Republicans lost the House in 2018 because of their attacks on Americans with pre-existing conditions. Their mission to strip health care from hardworking Americans going to cost them their jobs in 2020 too.” 

Democrats have also put a focus on Trump’s decision to not reopen ObamaCare enrollment to uninsured Americans amid the pandemic.

“It’s something every House Republican is going to have to answer for,” the Democratic strategist said.

Democrat Betsy Londrigan, who is running to unseat Rep. Rodney DavisRodney Lee DavisHouse passes legislation to boost election security research House Republicans investigating California secretary of state's contract with Biden-linked firm House Democrats' campaign arm releases ads hitting 10 Republicans on health care MORE (R-Ill.) for a second time in the state’s 13th  District, has called on Davis to push the Trump administration to temporarily reopen ObamaCare enrollment.

Davis, in turn, has said he would be open to discussing it with the administration, but added a reopening would not help individuals who cannot afford premiums. The Cook Political Report rates the district as a "toss-up."

Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to turn the cratering economy into a winning issue, touting Trump and the GOP’s efforts to reboot it as the country is certain to go into recession.

Over five million people filed initial unemployment claims for the week ending April 11, putting the total at around 22 million in four weeks.

“President Trump and Republicans put the economy at historic highs before this pandemic happened and they are the best people to do it afterwards,” McAdams said.

Democrats could also stand to benefit from the recent show of unity between the progressives and centrists at the top of the ticket. Biden received endorsements this week from former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe Memo: Trump's strengths complicate election picture Obama shares phone number to find out how Americans are planning to vote Democrats' troubling adventure in a 'Wonderland' without 'rule of law' MORE, as well as his progressive opponents Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOutrage erupts over Breonna Taylor grand jury ruling Dimon: Wealth tax 'almost impossible to do' Grand jury charges no officers in Breonna Taylor death MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDimon: Wealth tax 'almost impossible to do' CNN's Don Lemon: 'Blow up the entire system' remark taken out of context Democrats shoot down talk of expanding Supreme Court MORE (D-Mass.).

Some vulnerable Democratic lawmakers, notably Rep. Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamKate Schroder in Ohio among Democratic challengers squelching GOP hopes for the House Warning signs flash for Lindsey Graham in South Carolina Trump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report MORE (D) in South Carolina’s 1st District, had voiced concerns about how Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, would play in districts like his. Cook rates Cunningham’s district as a "toss-up."

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With Biden leading the ticket, Democrats say they will focus even more on preserving the Affordable Care Act passed under the Obama administration.

“Joe Biden is making a strong case for why Trump’s refusal to open the marketplace is stopping Americans from getting health insurance in a public health crisis,” the Democratic strategist said.

Democrats still have the advantage in a number of districts Trump carried in 2016. For example, the Cook Political Report rates Rep. Angie Craig’s (D-Minn.) district, which Trump won by 1.2 percentage points, as “lean Democratic,” while Reps. Mikie SherrillRebecca (Mikie) Michelle SherrillHillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll House passes legislation to boost election security research Lawmakers call for bipartisan push to support scientific research MORE's (D-N.J.) and Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindWisconsin Rep. Ron Kind wins primary Democrats exit briefing saying they fear elections under foreign threat Bottom line MORE’s (D-Wis.) races are rated as “likely Democratic.” 

However, Republicans have advantages in other key districts. Cook changed the rating for the race to fill former Rep. Katie HillKatherine (Katie) Lauren HillObama counsels NBA players on forming a social justice committee Republicans cast Trump as best choice for women House GOP campaign chairman insists party will win back majority MORE’s (D-Calif.) district from “lean Democratic” to “toss-up” this month. California Assemblywoman Christie Smith (D) and former Navy fighter pilot Mike Garcia (R) will face off in the vote-by-mail special general election on May 12.

A poll released last month from Garcia, conducted by the firm 1892 Polling, shows him leading in the race 43 percent to Smith's 39 percent. CLF announced on Thursday the group would spene $600,000 to persuade swing voters in the district.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, Rep. Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerTrump asked Chamber of Commerce to reconsider Democratic endorsements: report Virginians wait up to four hours to cast early voting ballots 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-Va.) faces a tough race in the 7th District, which Cook rates as a “toss up.” Cook also rated Rep. Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathThis week: House returns for pre-election sprint House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts Black Lives Matter movement to play elevated role at convention MORE’s (D-Ga.) seat in Georgia’s 6th District as a “toss-up.” That district was won by Trump in 2016 and was held by former Rep. Karen HandelKaren Christine HandelHouse Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts Black Lives Matter movement to play elevated role at convention QAnon backer Marjorie Taylor Greene wins Georgia GOP runoff MORE (R-Ga.), who is running again for the seat.

And one GOP strategist noted recent polling showed Rep. Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiDCCC reserves new ad buys in competitive districts, adds new members to 'Red to Blue' program The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - First lady casts Trump as fighter for the 'forgotten' Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers introduce resolution condemning QAnon | US Cyber Command leader vows to 'defend forward' in protecting nation from cyberattacks MORE (D-N.J.) — who flipped New Jersey’s 7th District in 2018 — currently narrowly trails GOP opponent, Tom Kean.

“We have every bit of confidence that Republicans will have the resources we need to compete for the majority,” a House Republican strategist said.