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 TrumpTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' GOP sues California over Newsom's vote-by-mail order 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 HurdThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump visits a ventilator plant in a battleground state The Hill to interview Mnuchin today and many other speakers The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve 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 BidenTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' How will COVID-19 affect the Hispanic vote come November? 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 DavisThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump visits a ventilator plant in a battleground state The Hill to interview Mnuchin today and many other speakers The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga says supporting small business single most important thing we should do now; Teva's Brendan O'Grady says U.S. should stockpile strategic reserve in drugs like Strategic Oil Reserve 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 star of tomorrow: Temptation and a career in politics reporting Blair questions Trump approach to coronavirus pandemic How a global 'Manhattan Project' could end pandemics MORE, as well as his progressive opponents Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden wins Hawaii primary Warren to host high-dollar fundraiser for Biden Julián Castro to become senior advisor for Voto Latino MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren to host high-dollar fundraiser for Biden It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers demand answers on Chinese COVID hacks | Biden re-ups criticism of Amazon | House Dem bill seeks to limit microtargeting MORE (D-Mass.).

Some vulnerable Democratic lawmakers, notably Rep. Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamThe Hill's Campaign Report: DOJ, intel to be major issues in 2020 Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary The 14 Democrats who broke with their party on coronavirus relief vote 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 SherrillBipartisan Senate group offers new help to state, local governments Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle MORE's (D-N.J.) and Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindCoronavirus culture war over reopening economy hits Capitol Hill How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle The Hill's Campaign Report: 200 days to Election Day 2020 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 HillThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The American Investment Council - Trump takes his 'ready to reopen' mantra on the road The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrat concedes in California House race Republican flips House seat in California special election 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 SpanbergerThe Hill's Campaign Report: DOJ, intel to be major issues in 2020 Human Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary The 14 Democrats who broke with their party on coronavirus relief vote 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 McBathThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden leads Trump by 6 points in new poll Warren announces slate of endorsements including Wendy Davis and Cornyn challenger Hegar How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle 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 HandelTrump lends support to swing district Republicans How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle The Hill's Campaign Report: 200 days to Election Day 2020 MORE (R-Ga.), who is running again for the seat.

And one GOP strategist noted recent polling showed Rep. Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiHuman Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary House passes massive T coronavirus relief package Democrats debate how and when to get House back in action 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.