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 TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal 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.
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 SpanbergerConservative group targets Spanberger, Luria in new ads ahead of reconciliation bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Meeks on being mistaken for a staffer: 'Glad I still blend in with the cool kids' MORE, Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsHouse Democrats return to advance Biden's agenda in face of crises Biden surrenders Afghanistan to terrorists Moderates revolt on infrastructure in new challenge for Pelosi MORE, Max RoseMax RoseMax Rose preparing for rematch with Nicole Malliotakis: report 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Overnight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage 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 TlaibDemocratic bill would force Fed to defund fossil fuels Democrats brace for battle on Biden's .5 trillion spending plan 'Squad' members call on Biden to shut down Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOcasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan Enough with the GDP — it's time to measure genuine progress Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Democrats eye potential carbon price in reconciliation bill MORE (D-Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOn The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Pelosi plows full speed ahead on jam-packed agenda Photos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Ocasio-Cortez, Bush push to add expanded unemployment in .5T spending plan 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 EmmerGOP leader taking proxy voting fight to Supreme Court Crypto industry seeks to build momentum after losing Senate fight Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election 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 ChabotBlinken grilled in first hearing since Afghanistan withdrawal Bipartisan group of lawmakers call on Biden to ensure journalists safe passage out of Afghanistan We must address the declining rate of startup business launches 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.
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 McCarthyOvernight Hillicon Valley — Scrutiny over Instagram's impact on teens Top Democrats tout California recall with an eye toward 2022 Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race MORE (R-Calif.), privately clashed with GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyEmboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes Jan. 6 committee taps former Bush administration official as top lawyer Wyoming county GOP rejects effort to rescind Cheney's party status 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 BrooksThe tale of the last bipartisan unicorns Bold leadership is necessary to curb violence against youth Here are the three GOP lawmakers who voted for the Equality Act 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 BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes 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 SandersDemocrats urge Biden to commute sentences of 4K people on home confinement Briahna Joy Gray: Push toward major social spending amid pandemic was 'short-lived' Sanders 'disappointed' in House panel's vote on drug prices MORE (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenFederal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D-Mass.), which Republicans argue could help them flip the House.
“Elections aren’t referendums; they’re choices,” said Rep. Tom ReedTom ReedLIVE COVERAGE: Tax hikes take center stage in Ways and Means markup It's now Pelosi's move on bipartisan roads bill The Energy Sector Innovation Credit Act is an industry game-changer 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.”