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 TrumpTrump administration eyes proposal to block jet engine sales to China: report Trump takes track to open Daytona 500 Brazile 'extremely dismayed' by Bloomberg record 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 SpanbergerHouse Democrats launch effort to register minority voters in key districts House passes bills to gain upper hand in race to 5G The biggest political upsets of the decade MORE, Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsBloomberg builds momentum on Capitol Hill with new endorsements Vulnerable Democrats fret over surging Sanders Democrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' MORE, Max RoseMax RoseVulnerable Democrats fret over surging Sanders Rose, former FBI agent pen op-ed about the danger of global white nationalism: 'Terrorism is terrorism' MLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues 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 TlaibWill Bernie have to turn on his bros? Rashida Tlaib detained by police during protest against low wages at Detroit airport Trump, like most presidents, takes credit for American workers' effort MORE (D-Mich.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTlaib says she held Omar's hand during 'triggering' moments at Trump's State of the Union speech Key House Democrat says Perez must go: 'He doesn't lead on anything' Democrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' MORE (D-Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezJulián Castro endorses Rep. Cuellar's primary opponent in Texas Overnight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Intercept Bureau Chief: Culinary Union concerns over "Medicare for All" are faulty 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 EmmerTrump Jr. says Sanders won't be 'real competition' if he's the nominee House Democratic campaign arm raised .1 million in January Republicans sense momentum after impeachment win 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 ChabotHouse GOP introduces bill to secure voter registration systems against foreign hacking DCCC to run ads tying 11 House Republicans to Trump remarks on entitlements Koch network could target almost 200 races in 2020, official says 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 McCarthySunday shows preview: 2020 Democrats jockey for top spot ahead of Nevada caucuses GOP climate plan faces pushback — from Republicans House GOP campaign arm mocks Democrats after stumbling upon internal info on races MORE (R-Calif.), privately clashed with GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyHouse passes bipartisan bill to create women's history museum Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia House rejects GOP resolution condemning Pelosi for ripping up Trump's speech 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 rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 Hispanic Democrats endorse Latina for open Indiana seat Trump shocks, earns GOP rebukes with Dingell remarks 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 BidenDemocrats redefine center as theirs collapses Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage Pelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' 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 redefine center as theirs collapses Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage Pelosi: 'I'm not counting Joe Biden out' MORE (I-Vt.) or Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats redefine center as theirs collapses Massachusetts Democrats question deployment of Border Patrol teams to sanctuary cities Speculation swirls around whether Bloomberg will make Las Vegas debate stage 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. ReedThis week: Trump's budget lands with a thud on Capitol Hill Cuccinelli: New York reintroduced 'the main problem' that allowed 9/11 New Yorkers blocked from Global Entry program over immigrant license law 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.”