How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle

How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle
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Republicans face an uphill climb to take back the House majority in November, with the battle centered around 30 key districts that President TrumpDonald TrumpWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' More than 75 Asian, LGBTQ groups oppose anti-Asian crime bill McConnell says he's 'great admirer' of Liz Cheney but mum on her removal 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 Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Congress drawn into pipeline cyberattack, violence in Israel Pence autobiography coming from Simon & Schuster Prince Harry joins Aspen Institute commission on misinformation 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.


However, Democrats are feeling a surge of confidence with former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says Beau's assessment of first 100 days would be 'Be who you are' Biden: McCarthy's support of Cheney ouster is 'above my pay grade' Conservative group sues over prioritization of women, minorities for restaurant aid 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.


“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 DavisWatchdog finds Architect of the Capitol was sidelined from security planning ahead of Jan. 6 Capitol Police watchdog calls for boosting countersurveillance House Republicans request hearing with Capitol Police Board for first time since 1945 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 ObamaTop Democrat buys Funny Or Die Michelle Obama describes Barack's favorite movies: 'Everybody is sad, then they die' Obama calls on governments to 'do their part' in increasing global vaccine supply MORE, as well as his progressive opponents Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care: CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 | House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill | Panel blasts COVID-19 response Briahna Joy Gray: Warren not endorsing Sanders in 2020 was 'really frustrating' House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' Briahna Joy Gray: Warren not endorsing Sanders in 2020 was 'really frustrating' McConnell hits Democratic critics of Israel MORE (D-Mass.).

Some vulnerable Democratic lawmakers, notably Rep. Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamJoe Cunningham to enter race for South Carolina governor Republicans race for distance from 'America First Caucus' Lobbying world 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."


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 SherrillGOP lawmakers request briefing on Democrats' claims of 'suspicious' Capitol tours before Jan. 6 Lawmakers question NCAA over 'disparate treatment' at women's championships NJ lawmakers ask Gannett to stop 'union-busting' efforts at 3 state newspapers MORE's (D-N.J.) and Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindHouse Democrats hit Republicans on mobile billboard at GOP retreat House Republicans pressuring Democrats to return donations from Ocasio-Cortez Race debate grips Congress 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 HillMaher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' Former Obama official named NFL senior VP of communications Republicans fret over divisive candidates 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 SpanbergerFive takeaways on the House's return to budget earmarks Lawmakers say companies need to play key role in sustainability On The Money: Weekly jobless claims fall to lowest level since lockdowns | Retail sales surge in March | Dow, S&P hit new records 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 McBathLawmakers brace for battles with colleagues as redistricting kicks off On The Trail: Census data kicks off the biggest redistricting fight in American history Giffords group unveils gun violence memorial on National Mall 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 HandelOssoff defeats Perdue in Georgia Senate runoff McBath wins rematch against Handel in Georgia House race House Democrats' campaign arm reserves .6M in ads in competitive districts MORE (R-Ga.), who is running again for the seat.

And one GOP strategist noted recent polling showed Rep. Tom MalinowskiThomas (Tom) MalinowskiWashington's split with Turkey widens — but it is up to Turkey to heal the rift Democrats warn Waters censure move opens floodgates Overnight Defense: Top Pentagon nominee advances after Harris casts tie-breaker | Air Force general charged with sexual assault first to face court-martial | House passes bill to limit Saudi arms sales 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.