GOP campaign chief confident his party will win back House

Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.)
Greg Nash

Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.), the Republican in charge of winning back the House majority for his party next year, is voicing measured confidence that the GOP will build on its 2020 momentum, when it gained seats while losing the White House.

The president’s party typically loses seats in a midterm election, and Republicans only need to gain 5 seats to win back the House.

Still, Emmer says he’s taking nothing for granted.

“I think people have to keep in mind that even though history might be on your side, you got to make history,” he told The Hill in an interview. “And it doesn’t happen just because it’s happened in the past so no, I think we get to work 10 times as hard.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been more bullish, telling the Conservative Political Action Conference last month that he’d bet his “personal house” that the GOP would retake the majority next year.

Emmer, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), says the GOP will have dozens of targets.

“We’ve targeted 47 offensive opportunities that we’re going to focus on, and they include 29 Democrats in seats where President Biden lost the district or where the 2020 presidential and congressional margin was within 5 points,” he said.

He hopes to unseat both Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.) and Cheri Bustos (Ill.), the current and former chairs respectively of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

Emmer said the NRCC will lean into its strategy of linking Democrats to socialism as they seek to win swing districts. He argues Democrats will pay politically for pushing back on sending children back to in-person school as the coronavirus pandemic fades and for killing the Keystone XL pipeline. He also thinks Democrats can be linked to the prospect of rising taxes.

“Nancy Pelosi and her socialist agenda are the most unpopular thing going on in this country, and it’s going to cost them their majority on their side,” he said, signaling the longtime Democratic Speaker will again be weaponized by the GOP.

Emmer said the NRCC is focused on recruiting more women and minority candidates after successfully drafting a more diverse slate in 2020. Three hundred GOP candidates have filed to run in more than 216 districts so far, surpassing the numbers seen ahead of 2020.

“The diversity is already in the party. It’s something that I said when I was given this privilege two years ago, that I was tired of by people trying to say the Republican Party needs to be more diverse. The diversity is all across this country on Main Streets in every state,” he said.

“The problem we’ve had is that I think we did a very good job of it last time. We’ve got to make sure that that diversity is reflected in our elected officials at the federal and state level. We started that process I think in a big way in the last cycle by empowering our delegations to be our chief recruitment tools and to tell us who the talent was in their states.”

Republicans do face a number of hurdles to take back the House, even if history in this midterm is on their side.

The party remains divided over its future direction between those who want to follow in the footsteps of former President Trump and those who want to break from him. Trump and his allies have threatened to go after disloyal Republicans in primaries.

Emmer previously told Politico he doesn’t believe such fights are helpful but that the NRCC doesn’t have plans to play in primaries. 

He also insisted that the notion of a Republican civil war is overblown.

“Our Republican conference is united for one thing, and that is to take back the majority in two years. And I think right now, that’s exactly where we’re headed,” he said.

Emmer does not plan to run from Trump. In fact, he expects to highlight Trump administration successes, which he feels will outweigh grievances with the former president’s rhetoric.

He notes the economy was strong under Trump before the pandemic, with low rates of unemployment for women, Hispanics and Blacks.

“Even with the pandemic, you’ve seen this country continue to move forward and I think we’re going to celebrate those policies — again that were implemented in the last administration that brought so many voters into the Republican Party. Secure borders, making sure that we have an America first policy — that’s still a winning approach for us,” he said.

Emmer expressed confidence that Republicans will have sufficient resources as they move toward 2022 despite a number of corporate PACs opting to withhold donations from GOP lawmakers who voted to challenge the result of the presidential election. He said he believes PACs will change their tune.

“We aren’t beholden, our members are not beholden to corporate PACs,” said Emmer, who did not challenge the 2020 election results. “The only people they answer to are the people that vote for them in their districts, the people they represent in their individual districts.”

The DCCC outraised the NRCC in February, $11.5 million to $7.2 million, after Republicans had the fundraising edge in January.

Another factor that could benefit the GOP next cycle is its success in retaining the majority in state houses in key states as redistricting comes into play.

Emmer said that while redistricting could help his party, he’s not counting on it.

“We do have an advantage in the number of seats that Republicans are going to draw but redistricting alone, I don’t believe that is going to deliver a majority,” he said.   

“We’re going to have to run competitive races, all over the country. And we will do that, and we’ll win.”

Updated at 10:22 a.m.

Tags 2022 midterm elections Cheri Bustos Donald Trump Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi Tom Emmer

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