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 McCarthySchiff: McCarthy 'will do whatever Trump tells him' if GOP wins back House House GOP campaign arm raises .8 million in third quarter McCarthy raises nearly M so far this year MORE (R-Calif.) and other top Republicans on Tuesday by reelecting a leadership team that benefited from ticket-splitting voters who turned President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups 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.
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 ScaliseLiz Cheney is the Margaret Chase Smith of our time GOP's embrace of Trump's false claims creates new perils House GOP campaign arm raises .8 million in third quarter 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 EmmerDemocrats face grim political reality in midterms GOP's embrace of Trump's false claims creates new perils McAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington 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.
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 PelosiBiden to take part in CNN town hall in Baltimore Manchin on finishing agenda by Halloween: 'I don't know how that would happen' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Build Back Better items on chopping block 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 ShalalaDemocrats face bleak outlook in Florida 'Blue wave' Democrats eye comebacks after losing reelection Pelosi, Schumer must appoint new commissioners to the CARES Act oversight panel 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 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 (N.Y.) who represents parts of Staten Island; and Rep. Collin PetersonCollin Clark Peterson Progressives fight for leverage amid ever-slimming majority Six ways to visualize a divided America On The Trail: The political losers of 2020 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.
“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 FergusonDemocrats face growing storm over IRS reporting provision Dental coverage for Medicare recipients divides parties The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Progressives ready to tank infrastructure bill 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.