GOP hopes dim on reclaiming House

The 2020 election is more than a year away, but some Republican lawmakers are pessimistic about their chances of winning back the House.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE’s approval ratings in key swing states are under water. Infighting on the GOP leadership team and a notable retirement have raised questions about the party’s campaign strategy.

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And Republicans acknowledge that many of the at-risk Democratic freshmen in Trump districts are going to be difficult to beat as they resist calls for impeachment and stay focused on kitchen-table issues such as health care and infrastructure.

“It’s going to be tough. [The Democrats] have really good majority-makers — [Reps.] Abigail SpanbergerAbigail Davis SpanbergerClub for Growth extends advertising against House Dems over impeachment NRCC campaign prank leads to suspicious package investigation Overnight Health Care: Walden won't seek reelection | Senate Dems to vote this week to overturn Trump ObamaCare moves | Largest children's migrant shelter to close | Vulnerable Republicans balk at drug pricing bill MORE, Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsKudlow 'very optimistic' on USMCA prospects USMCA deal close, but not 'imminent,' Democrats say Democrats lead Trump by wide margins in Minnesota MORE, Max RoseMax RoseHillicon Valley: Critics press feds to block Google, Fitbit deal | Twitter takes down Hamas, Hezbollah-linked accounts | TikTok looks to join online anti-terrorism effort | Apple pledges .5B to affordable housing Twitter takes down Hamas, Hezbollah-affiliated accounts after lawmaker pressure FBI chief says racist extremists fueling one another, making connections overseas MORE. They’ve got some good members that know what they’re doing. They seem to not be embracing the crazy,” said one senior GOP lawmaker who requested anonymity.

“There is a path for us to take it back, but they have good candidates. They have money they are still raising left and right,” the source added. “You just don’t know if the intensity of our voters will be enough, because [Democrats] are still engaged.”

In the first three months of this year, the House Democrats’ campaign arm hauled in more than $32 million, while the GOP’s campaign operation raised $25 million.

Another GOP lawmaker said it will be hard for Republicans to make the case to voters they deserve the majority when they failed to repeal ObamaCare or fund Trump’s border wall in the last Congress when they controlled all the levers of the government.

“It would be very difficult to take back the majority when most people see it as a squandered opportunity when Republicans had the majority,” the second GOP lawmaker told The Hill.

Democrats rode an anti-Trump wave in last fall’s midterm elections, picking up a net 40 seats and winning the House majority for the first time in eight years.

Democrats now enjoy a 235-198 advantage, meaning Republicans need to win a net of 20 seats to win back control of the House in 2020.

GOP leaders maintain they can pull it off, pointing to the low unemployment rate, strong economy and defeat of ISIS under Trump. They also believe that liberal bomb throwers like Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibAyanna Pressley introduces extensive criminal justice reform resolution Ethics panel extends probe into Tlaib Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarNew York man pleads guilty to threatening to kill Omar Ilhan Omar calls out Buttigieg campaign for Douglass Plan stock photo: 'Not ok or necessary' Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field MORE (D-Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezNew York man pleads guilty to threatening to kill Omar Funding stopgap would give Congress more time to debate expiring surveillance provisions 'Saturday Night Live' presents Trump impeachment hearings with 'pizzazz' of soap opera MORE (D-N.Y.) are driving the Democratic Party too far to the left, alienating middle-of-the-road voters.

In a private gathering at the Capitol Hill Club, National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerGeorge Papadopoulos launches campaign to run for Katie Hill's congressional seat Shimkus says he's been asked to reconsider retirement Walden retirement adds to GOP election woes MORE (Minn.) told rank-and-file Republicans on Wednesday they have a “real opportunity” to pick up seats and take back the lower chamber.

Emmer specifically singled out the Orange County seat of freshman Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) as a prime pickup opportunity after she endorsed this week the idea of launching an impeachment inquiry into the president, sources in the closed-door meeting said.

“I think there’s a great chance we’re going to take the House back. I think Trump’s well-positioned to win reelection, too,” said Rep. Steve ChabotSteven (Steve) Joseph ChabotSECURE it — for small businesses and their workers Bottom Line Consequential GOP class of 1994 all but disappears MORE (R-Ohio), who beat back a tough challenge from Democrat Aftab Pureval last fall.

“The bottom line is the country is better off under his leadership,” Chabot said.

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But the GOP leadership team has experienced turmoil in recent weeks that has rattled the Republican conference. Emmer, the NRCC chairman and a close ally of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHarris introduces bill to prevent California wildfires McCarthy says views on impeachment won't change even if Taylor's testimony is confirmed House Republicans call impeachment hearing 'boring,' dismiss Taylor testimony as hearsay MORE (R-Calif.), privately clashed with GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran Cruz, Graham and Cheney call on Trump to end all nuclear waivers for Iran Pompeo: US ending sanctions waiver for site where Iran resumed uranium enrichment MORE (Wyo.) and two other GOP leaders last week over whether they were pulling their weight in raising money for the party.

That fight spilled out into the public, an embarrassing episode for McCarthy’s leadership team.

Then came another blow: Rep. Susan BrooksSusan Wiant BrooksOregon GOP Rep. Greg Walden won't seek reelection Here are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Pelosi: GOP retirements indicate they'll be in the minority, with Democrat in the White House MORE (R-Ind.), whom Emmer had hand-picked to lead candidate recruitment in the 2020 cycle, abruptly announced she was retiring from Congress. Brooks, one of only 13 GOP women in the House, had specifically been brought on to help recruit more women to run for Congress.

In Wednesday’s campaign meeting, Brooks stood up in front of colleagues and told them her retirement would allow her to spend more time traveling the country to recruit candidates and raise campaign cash.

“The flip side,” one Republican said after the meeting, “is that she’s the recruitment chair and she’s leaving. That is a negative.”

A third House GOP lawmaker who asked for anonymity suggested the NRCC and broader party had done little to shore up support among suburban women, who fled from Trump and the GOP in droves during the disastrous 2018 election.  

“What lessons have we learned from 2018, when we got shellacked in the suburbs? What have we done to make up ground there? Are we appealing to those suburban women?” the third GOP lawmaker asked. “I think we haven’t done much here perception-wise with Trump to bring in some of those voters.”

Many in the GOP fear that, just like last fall, Trump will be an albatross around the necks of congressional candidates. Recent polls show Trump trailing former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Democrats release two new transcripts ahead of next public impeachment hearings Press: Ukraine's not the only outrage MORE and other Democratic hopefuls in battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Three polls even showed Trump trailing Biden in Texas. 

“In 2016, Trump won Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania … those are bellwethers,” said the third GOP lawmaker. “Trump’s numbers in those states today are in trouble.”

Still, other Republicans cautioned that it’s far too early to panic. While many agree Biden would be a strong match-up against Trump, Democrats could eventually nominate a liberal like Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersRahm Emanuel: Bloomberg, Patrick entering race will allow Democrats to have 'ideas primary' Feehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Jayapal hits back at Biden on marijuana 'prohibition' MORE (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenRahm Emanuel: Bloomberg, Patrick entering race will allow Democrats to have 'ideas primary' Feehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Jayapal hits back at Biden on marijuana 'prohibition' MORE (D-Mass.), which Republicans argue could help them flip the House.

“Elections aren’t referendums; they’re choices,” said Rep. Tom ReedThomas (Tom) W. ReedHillicon Valley: Critics press feds to block Google, Fitbit deal | Twitter takes down Hamas, Hezbollah-linked accounts | TikTok looks to join online anti-terrorism effort | Apple pledges .5B to affordable housing Twitter takes down Hamas, Hezbollah-affiliated accounts after lawmaker pressure Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg would support delaying Libra | More attorneys general join Facebook probe | Defense chief recuses from 'war cloud' contract | Senate GOP blocks two election security bills | FTC brings case against 'stalking' app developer MORE (R-N.Y.), co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. “So, if you have the choice of President Trump delivering for you on the economy versus these [Democrats] who want to undo everything, it’s a totally different dynamic.”