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GOP sees path to House majority in 2022

Republicans returned to the Capitol this week with a spring in their step after they defied expectations and gained House seats on Election Day, putting a GOP majority within their grasp for 2022.

GOP lawmakers rewarded House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? Top Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' MORE (R-Calif.) and other top Republicans on Tuesday by reelecting a leadership team that benefited from ticket-splitting voters who turned President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rages against '60 Minutes' for interview with Krebs Cornyn spox: Neera Tanden has 'no chance' of being confirmed as Biden's OMB pick Pa. lawmaker was informed of positive coronavirus test while meeting with Trump: report MORE out of office but backed Republican candidates in the House and Senate.

It was a stamp of approval for divided government and gave Republicans a sense of momentum in their goal to recapture the lower chamber two years from now in the midterm elections, when the party that controls the White House historically loses seats in Congress.

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The GOP has flipped nearly a dozen seats with a handful of Republican candidates leading in uncalled races. And while Republicans will fall short of the 17 seats needed to win back the House this cycle, Democrats will be holding the thinnest majority since World War II. 

“We shocked a lot of people by gaining so many seats in swing districts this cycle, but we have more work to do,” House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' New RSC chairman sees 'Trumpism' as future MORE (R-La.), who stumped for candidates across the country, told The Hill.

“And we've already heard from some great candidates in places where we just came up short.”

GOP leaders said they are cautiously optimistic about their odds in 2022, noting that while they feel good about their current position, they will still need to fight to take back the majority.

Rep. Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerVoters elected a record number of Black women to Congress this year — none were Republican A louder voice for women everywhere GOP sees path to House majority in 2022 MORE (R-Minn.), who leads the House GOP’s campaign arm, said while Republicans exceeded expectations, he was “disappointed” they weren’t able to flip the House.

The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) chairman said they aren’t taking the gains for granted and need to keep their eye on the prize, adding that he sees a path to pick up seats in districts operatives dismissed as Democratic strongholds following the blue wave in 2018.

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The GOP picked up seats in the Miami area and held on to seats they were projected to lose in Texas, but Emmer said he feels there are opportunities in states like Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

“People need to understand that we had some success this cycle, but it didn't just happen because you said we were going to have successes — we worked hard. This challenge is no different — we have to work even harder this time,” Emmer told The Hill.

“This is not going to be an easy feat, no matter what people say. We can't listen to the pollsters, we can't listen to the prognosticators, you’ve got to know that it's up to you — you’ve got to make your own luck.”

Emmer credited recruiting strong, diverse candidates, combined with the divisions within the Democratic caucus, for the GOP's ability to take out a large number of Democratic front-liners, noting the Election Day gains have left Democrats with a dwindling number of centrists. He said the NRCC plans to lean into the strategy of highlighting progressive policies while targeting swing districts.

“There are no moderates left — and by the way, if they keep Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiObama chief economist says Democrats should accept smaller coronavirus relief package if necessary The five biggest challenges facing President-elect Biden Democrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? MORE that's not a bad thing for us,” he said.

House Democrats on Wednesday nominated Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to remain atop the party for another two years. Pelosi now needs a majority of the House to back her in a January floor vote, a not-insignificant hurdle given that 10 of the 15 Democrats who opposed her in 2019 are returning to Congress next year, when the party will have fewer members.

Among those defeated in a year Democrats were projected to pick up five to 15 seats were longtime members and rising stars alike, including Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaDemocratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet MORE (Fla.), who represents a district in Miami-Dade and served as secretary of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration; Rep. Max RoseMax RoseGOP sees path to House majority in 2022 Bickering Democrats return with divisions Here are the 17 GOP women newly elected to the House this year MORE (N.Y.) who represents parts of Staten Island; and Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark PetersonDemocrats were united on top issues this Congress — but will it hold? A louder voice for women everywhere Former Minnesota Democratic leader quits party MORE (Minn.), a 15-term lawmaker who represents a Republican-leaning district and serves as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Historically, the party that does not hold the White House has been largely successful in flipping majorities during the midterms — a statistic that has some Democrats saying they need to reevaluate their strategy heading into the next election cycle.

One Democratic lawmaker said the GOP’s messaging strategy of linking them to socialism is an area Democrats need to better combat and that Pelosi could be a liability for some vulnerable members.

“I mean, we are not well-positioned for 2022, we're just not. It's really unfair for [Pelosi] to stay in that position, that she can hold the gavel for two more years when we all are assuming that 2022 is probably going to be a bloodbath,” the lawmaker said.

"Not only did we not pick up 10 or 15 seats, it's going to be a net loss for House Dems. This is supposed to be an opportunity for us to expand the map, grow the majority, and we squandered that, especially knowing how important it was to do that in 2020, to build that bulwark, that cushion that we need for 2022.”

While the tide may be turning in the GOP’s favor, Republicans are cautioning they shouldn’t take their recent gains for granted and could face some significant hurdles in their quest to take back the House.

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“If you think about it, we had historic gains. We exposed the Democrats for who they were, which is folks that were trying to push this country toward socialism. But now we've been kind of backed into a corner, and they're gonna come out swinging and they're gonna come out fighting, and a narrow majority has way of bringing people together,” said Rep. Drew FergusonAnderson (Drew) Drew FergusonGOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 GOP sees path to House majority in 2022 Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter tests positive for coronavirus MORE (R-Ga.), the House GOP’s chief deputy whip.

“So we're gonna have to work harder, or we're gonna have to be more focused on everything from fundraising to good policy to working twice as hard to get the message out. I think we can do it, but it's not going to walk through the door and present itself — we've got to go take it.”

Scott Wong contributed. Updated at 4:12 p.m.