House GOP vows to use impeachment to cut into Democratic majority

House Republicans are feeling good about their defense of President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeWine tests negative for coronavirus a second time Several GOP lawmakers express concern over Trump executive orders Beirut aftermath poses test for US aid to frustrating ally MORE in this month’s impeachment vote, and now want to use the divisive fight to cut into the Democratic majority in next fall’s elections.

Republicans would need to gain about 20 seats to win back the House majority, something seen as a tall order by most political observers.

Much will depend on the presidential election, as a Trump victory would likely offer some coattails for Republicans. Yet Trump’s low approval ratings and the possibility he could again win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote makes the GOP an underdog in seeking to end Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi, Schumer slam Trump executive orders, call for GOP to come back to negotiating table Trump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Sunday shows preview: White House, congressional Democrats unable to breach stalemate over coronavirus relief MORE’s (D-Calif.) second Speakership.

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Gains by the GOP are much more likely, and Republicans are confident they can use the impeachment votes by many House Democrats against them — starting with those representing districts won by Trump in 2016.

There are 30 such seats following Rep. Jefferson Van Drew’s (N.J.) decision to switch parties and become a Republican.

“For the Democrats running in those 30 Trump districts, they now need to tell their constituents why they voted against their vote for president, and I think that's going to be a very difficult argument to make, especially with President Trump on the ballot,” National Republican Congressional Committee Spokesman Michael McAdams told The Hill. 

McAdams argues Democrats will be in a “tricky position” given GOP voters are energized by an impeachment they oppose. He also noted polling that shows independents opposed to impeachment.

Democrats recognize the threat, particularly in districts such as Rep. Joe CunninghamJoseph CunninghamMultiple lawmakers self-quarantine after exposure to Gohmert Hoyer: Maskless Republicans a public health threat Gohmert tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s in Charleston, S.C., and Kendra HornKendra Suzanne HornRepublicans uncomfortably playing defense The Hill's Campaign Report: Even the Post Office is political now | Primary action tonight | Super PACS at war House Democrats target Midwestern GOP seats MORE’s in Oklahoma City. Those two districts were surprises for Democrats in 2018, with Horn having flipped a seat that had been held by Republicans since 1975 and Cunningham won a district held by the GOP since 1981.

At the same time, they aren’t sweating too much about the possibility of losing their majority.

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One Democratic operative pointed to a recent Politico-Morning Consult poll showing 52 percent of respondents support impeaching the president, as well as a funding edge for the party.

The source said they expect Democrats in swing districts to place a strong focus on health care and drug pricing.

“We have a huge, huge, huge advantage on drug prices and health care and it's where we're going to spend our money — money that we have more than they do," the operative said. “We have more money on the hard side than they do, which obviously goes a lot further.” 

Given Van Drew’s party switch, just one Democrat — Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonHouse approves statehood for DC in 232-180 vote House to pass sweeping police reform legislation From farmers to grocery store clerks, thank you to all of our food system MORE (Minn.) — voted against impeachment. Peterson represents a district Trump won by more than 30 points. He’s held it for decades, but is likely to face a tough challenge.

Of the 30 Democrats representing districts won by Trump, McAdams noted that Trump won 13 by more than 6 1/2 points.

He also said New Jersey, where Van Drew appeared to decide his best route to reelection was to run as a Republican, will be a key state. Democrats gained four seats in the state in 2018.

Conservative outside groups have also ramped up spending on anti-impeachment ad campaigns, hammering Democrats on their votes in districts they see as winnable.

Shortly after the House’s impeachment vote, American Action Network announced plans to spend an additional $2.5 million in 29 Trump-won districts held by Democrats, following an $8.5 million spending blitz in the weeks leading up to the articles of impeachment coming to the floor. 

And prominent figures in the party have been making the rounds on cable news and taking to social media in an attempt to amplify their anti-impeachment messaging, taking aim at Pelosi and leaders of the inquiry including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe Schiff, Khanna call for free masks for all Americans in coronavirus aid package House Intelligence panel opens probe into DHS's involvement in response to protests MORE (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBy questioning Barr, Democrats unmasked their policy of betrayal Chris Wallace: Barr hearing 'an embarrassment' for Democrats: 'Just wanted to excoriate him' Apple posts blowout third quarter MORE (D-N.Y.).

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseRepublicans fear disaster in November Gaetz set to endorse primary opponent of fellow Florida GOP lawmaker Hillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video MORE (R-La.) said he expects moderate Democrats to try to separate themselves from the impeachment narrative as the election grows nearer. 

“There are a lot of Democrats today who voted for people who can't go back home and explain that vote, and I will challenge them if they're getting a lot of people criticizing their vote, I would challenge them to invite Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff to explain what was done today,” he told reporters immediately after the impeachment vote.

The Democratic operative said if Republicans were that confident about winning back the majority in 2020, fewer would be retiring.

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So far 25 Republicans have announced they will not run for reelection next year, including Reps. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdDemocrats go big on diversity with new House recruits Texas Democrats plan 7-figure ad buy to turn state blue Republicans face worsening outlook in battle for House MORE (Texas), Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerJerry Falwell Jr. placed on indefinite leave GOP congressman calls for Falwell's resignation Pence confidant helps 24-year-old beat Trump-backed candidate MORE (N.C.) and George HoldingGeorge Edward Bell HoldingThe 14 other key races to watch on Super Tuesday GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts House GOP vows to use impeachment to cut into Democratic majority MORE (N.C.).

Some represent districts that appear likely to be won by Democrats.

The Cook Political Report has Democrats favored to win two seats in North Carolina that will be easier pickups for the party because of new congressional district lines brought about by a court decision. The two seats are held by Walker and Holding.

Democrats are also favored to pick up a seat in Texas.

“If impeachment is so great for them, why are all their members retiring and why are they are not raising more money — two signs that look bad for them in flipping the House,” the operative said.