GOP campaign chief: We won’t lose the House

GOP campaign chief: We won’t lose the House
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Rep. Greg Walden, the House Republican campaign chief, is ruling out the possibility that a wave election this fall could wipe out the GOP’s historic majority and hand Democrats control of the chamber.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Hill, the two-term National Republican Congressional Committee chairman rejected the idea that things could get so bad with either Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic field begins to shrink ahead of critical stretch To ward off recession, Trump should keep his mouth and smartphone shut Trump: 'Who is our bigger enemy,' Fed chief or Chinese leader? MORE or Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzIs this any way for NASA to build a lunar lander? GOP strategist predicts Biden will win nomination, cites fundraising strength 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 MORE at the top of the Republican ticket control of the House would flip to Democrats.

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“I rule it out. I don’t see it happening. I don’t see it happening, not at this point in time,” the Oregon Republican said in his second-floor office at NRCC headquarters, a few blocks from the Capitol. “There is no evidence to indicate that’s even building.”

Democrats in recent days have been emboldened as it has become more likely that Trump, who has high unfavorable ratings with the electorate at large and particularly poor approval numbers with women, will be the GOP nominee.

“The House is in play because of their nominee,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said bluntly after a closed-door meeting of House Democratic leaders in the Capitol on Wednesday.

Walden argues that Democrats are wrong, saying the warning signs simply aren’t there for his party, which holds 247 House seats — the largest majority Republicans have enjoyed since before the Great Depression.

More than 200 of those seats are “locked” and safe, Walden said, in part because of redistricting. The NRCC has $50 million in the bank, a cash advantage over Democrats’ campaign operation, the DCCC.

“There’s a floor that we have that is better than we’ve ever had. It’s well over 200,” Walden said. “They are locked and there are people above that are fine. Does the DCCC have a straight-face list of how they get to 218?”

Generic polls also have shown Republicans and Democrats roughly tied. But a George Washington University/Battleground poll this month revealed that 46 percent of voters were more likely to back a Democrat in their congressional race; 41 percent said they’d go with the Republican.

“I don’t see any evidence of a wave, and you’d need a big wave,” Walden said. “And I’m not sure history shows us the presidential automatically produces a wave.”

So, for Walden, what does success look like in November?

“I want to hold every seat we have,” acknowledging that two GOP-held seats have already been eliminated by recent court redistricting decisions. “You’re gonna be down some. When you’re at the biggest majority since 1928, you have to recognize that’s a pretty high peak to stay at.

“Having said that, they’ve had some real recruitment failures. Our members in some real competitive seats have gotten out of the blocks fast, and I’m still optimistic.”

Walden also touched on a number of other issues in the conversation with The Hill.

A new Watergate?

Walden, who carries around a reporter’s notebook and likes to remind people he has a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, didn’t care much for this week’s CBS “60 Minutes” segment on fundraising that featured undercover footage inside NRCC offices.

Walden has launched an internal probe to find out who secretly filmed the second floor of the Republican National Committee’s headquarters, but his team hasn’t cracked the case yet. He’s not sure whether it was an inside job, or if it constitutes a criminal act.

“We’re trying to figure it out. We’re working on it. We’re piecing it together,” Walden said. Something like this hasn’t happened “since Watergate, that I’m aware of, where one of these places has somebody come in when they were told not to come in. They asked permission; they wanted to film and we said ‘no’ …

“Did they break in? A break-in would be a problem.”

The "60 Minutes" piece profiled Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.), a Senate candidate, and his crusade against Congress's dialing-for-dollars "telemarketing" culture. 

But in a brief interview Friday, Jolly said he hadn't set foot in the RNC building was about two to three months ago, and had nothing to do with the video.

Asked if he "condones" the secret recording at the NRCC, Jolly told The Hill: "I'm not going to comment. That's between '60 Minutes' and the NRCC."

NRCC’s ‘nuclear arms race’

Walden, 59, has made it clear his second term as NRCC chairman will be his last. But he had harsh words for some of his colleagues who have already begun jockeying to succeed him.

This week, Rep. Roger WilliamsJohn (Roger) Roger WilliamsPopulation shifts set up huge House battleground The 27 Republicans who voted with Democrats to block Trump from taking military action against Iran The Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today MORE (R-Texas) announced in The Hill that he was officially running for Walden’s job. And Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), one of Walden’s three campaign deputies, has also been reaching out to colleagues about an NRCC bid, sources said.

Walden didn’t single anyone out but said it was too early for members to be campaigning for leadership spots, especially with so much at stake in November. The GOP conference will hold leadership votes after the general election.

“You don’t divide the spoils until you actually have them,” Walden said in a moment of exasperation.

“If you have that much time and energy, there’s a better place to put it to use. And that is helping elect Republicans, and I’m not saying anything about Roger, I’m not naming names,” he continued. “But it is April. People shouldn’t be out running for these leadership positions in April. It sets off a whole wave. 

“It’s sort of like a nuclear arms race,” Walden went on. “Then everybody thinks they have to get involved and pretty soon everybody is dividing everybody up. And then they’re putting all the members in uncomfortable positions because nobody really wants to say no.”