GOP still has path to House majority despite Dem gains

Yet House Democrats are faced with this sobering fact: Republicans may not need to flip the districts Biden carried in 2020 to reclaim a majority. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and his caucus also anticipate a flurry of outside spending to come, which could overwhelm them with TV ads in the critical final weeks of the midterms. And historical precedence is not in their favor.

In total, Republicans need only five seats to win the gavel. And while Democrats may be on the verge of mitigating some losses, Republicans say there’s still little chance the party’s summer surge can overcome the stacked card.

“I think we probably had a bit of irrational exuberance over the summer. There’s no question the president’s numbers, while bad, are better,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former House GOP campaign leader, who pegged his party’s gains at around 20 to 25 seats, rather than the 60 that his party leader once predicted at the height of the struggles of the Democrats.

“I always ask myself every morning, do I rather be us than them? And I’d rather be us,” Cole said. “And I think if they’re being honest, they would say the same thing.”

Redistricting, retirements and red-legged seats are fueling the GOP

Despite the undeniable shift in momentum toward the Democrats, some Democrats privately say a good night for their party would limit the GOP to single-digit gains. The desire to hold a majority has been hampered by a historic number of Democratic pensionsredistricting setbacks and several Democratic incumbents running in Trump-friendly territory.

While the redistricting did not tilt Republicans as heavily as some expected, the GOP emerged from the process with a healthy cushion of new GOP districts. They added dark red seats around Nashville, Atlanta and Houston and in eastern Montana. In Florida alone, Republicans are likely leaving with four new districts. Any path to a Democratic majority would mean erasing those gains by flipping seats held by the GOP.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been blocked by the courts to enact several would-be gerrymanders in blue states, including New York — though they also won a few new dark blue seats.

After subtracting the seats Republicans are expected to win almost automatically after the redistricting, Democrats face another hurdle: defending about a dozen seats won by Trump that Democratic members currently hold.

While GOP officials acknowledge that some incumbents will be harder to oust, like Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) and Jared Golden (D-Maine) they see other neighborhoods as easier lifts. representing Tom O’HalleranThe seat of (D-Arizona) was changed to a district that Trump would have won by 8 points. About half of the Trump-Democratic seats are open and even the Democrats acknowledge that they are unlikely to be able to keep some of them. These include a rural district in Wisconsin and a seat in Michigan where Republicans nominated Army veteran John James, who has a high name ID and a large pool of donors from the past two races. statewide.

“These campaigns are going to be tough and tough,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), though he predicted that “the inevitability for Republicans is gone.”

Even that scenario reflects a massive shift in the political environment — and in the expectations of Democrats — since just a few weeks ago. Not only did the Supreme Court overturn Roe vs. Wade and liven up a previously waning Democratic base, but former President Donald Trump has returned to the national news cycle amid various investigations — all coinciding with a surprisingly productive summer for Democrats in Congress.

That has helped Democrats close a once-gaping enthusiasm gap and weed out more independent voters, according to a recent public poll.

Where the map looks better for Democrats

Their improved position shifted the House battlefield in two ways: a collection of Biden quarters buoyed by more than 10 points in 2020 look much safer than two months ago, when private ballot of both parties have shown that a lot of deep blue districts could be at stake. And a handful of Republican incumbents holding districts that Biden carried in 2020 now look much more vulnerable, raising the possibility that the Democrats can attack.

The Democratic operatives are mostly hoping to overthrow the Michigan district where the GOP rep. Pierre Meijer lost its primary, which Biden won by 9 points two years ago, and those held by the representatives. David Valadao (R-California), mike garcia (R-California) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.).

Others will be tougher and some aren’t really in play, thanks to strong, well-funded starters like Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.). But Democrats in these blue-leaning districts are campaigning for abortion rights.

“That’s the number one issue I hear about, followed closely by the economy,” said North Carolina state Sen. Wiley Nickel, a Democrat running in a newly redesigned seat — and fiercely competitive – around Raleigh against former college football player Bo. Hines. “It’s on the top of many voters’ minds because we had these constitutional rights for 50 years and now the Republicans have taken them away.”

The same national trends Nickel is trying to follow in its tightly divided seat are the ones that have moved Democratic districts the most heavily off the GOP target slates.

“It’s going to be harder to win double-digit runs from Biden now than it was three months ago,” said Robert Blizzard, a veteran GOP pollster. “It’s not 2010. You can’t show up on election day with an ‘R’ next to your name and think you’re going to win in November.”

“The Democrats now have a boost of energy, which could definitely help them save a few seats,” he added.

Indeed, agents on both sides recognize that more blue-leaning districts such as Rep. Greg Stanton‘s (D-Arizona) and Rep. Katie Porter‘s (D-California) now seem much less competitive. Rep-elected pat ryan (DN.Y.), too, is in a good position to win a full term in a redesigned district, more Democratic than the one he won in a special election in August.

The central battlefield

The problem for Democrats is that Republicans don’t need to win any of those seats to retake the House — they can still win with a narrow target slate. The size of their potential majority will be determined by the roughly two dozen seats held by Democrats that Biden won more narrowly.

The most competitive seats belong to the representatives. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and wild susan (D-Pa.), joined by newly drawn open seats in Colorado, North Carolina and Ohio. Others that Biden won by high single-digit margins, like Reps. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) or Susie Lee (D-Nev.) will be harder for Republicans to cash in on.

Democrats insist they feel better in these neighborhoods following the Dobbs decision, which they say will speed up their voter turnout, persuade some independents and help their candidates avoid some drag from Biden’s numbers.

A series of internal Democratic polls conducted in August in a dozen battleground seats, which were reviewed by POLITICO, showed Democratic candidates standing, on average, more than 6 percentage points above Biden’s approval rating in those districts. At the higher end of the spectrum were Wild and Rep. And Kildee (D-Mich.).

The party’s standing with voters was so bad early in the election cycle that everyone was overwhelmed, Democrats note. Now, that is no longer the case.

“The reality is that four months ago candidates didn’t matter, and now we’re back in a world where candidates matter,” said Jason Bresler, a Democratic consultant who was the political director. of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2018. He said the party has enough quality candidates to win constituencies even when there is “a deficit of more than 4 points on the generic ballot”.

Republicans, however, say there are plenty of voters with other issues on their minds, namely inflation.

“In most battleground seats this cycle, swing voters are pro-choice, but they’re far more concerned about economic issues than abortion,” said Dan Conston, chairman of the Congressional Leadership Fund, the House GOP’s flagship super PAC.

“There’s no question there’s been an increase in Democratic enthusiasm, and that’s important,” he said. “At the same time, the fundamentals of the election still tilt Republicans.”

Republicans are also expected to enjoy a huge outward spending advantage, thanks in large part to Conston’s operation.

The Congressional Leadership Fund has already earmarked $162 million in TV ads, including adding $37 million this week to its list of focus districts. House Majority PAC, the Democratic counterpart to the House, has earmarked more than $122 million.

“The X factor here is that we still don’t know how much money the CLF is going to dump on these candidates, but we know it’s going to be huge,” said former DCCC executive director Dan Sena. “The Democrats crawled out of a hole because we’re more motivated to run now and fight like in 2018, but there’s still a massive cash advantage to the other side.”

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