TheHill reports coming on the heels of two special election wins, House Republicans are feeling a new sense of optimism about their odds of taking back control of the lower chamber, with National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) saying he feels the House is more than just in play.
While independent political forecasters have largely projected that Republicans face a steep uphill climb to win back the majority — citing the number of retirements, the number of seats that flipped in the midterms and the fact that Democrats have a cash advantage — top GOP lawmakers say Rep. Mike Garcia’s (R-Calif.) victory over Democrat Christy Smith in a competitive swing district indicates political analysts may be underestimating the party’s momentum.
“The Garcia election in Los Angeles I think was a wake-up call to all the skeptics out there that in the middle of all of these difficult challenges, a Republican just flipped a seat in the suburbs of L.A., and that hasn’t been done in 22 years,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) told The Hill.
“And that, by the way, that that would be considered one of the longer-shot races,” he added. “There are a lot of other races that are much more likely to flip from Democrat to Republican to get us the majority.”
Emmer, the head of the House GOP’s campaign arm, said he believes the success in the recent special elections — particularly in a swing seat such as California’s 25th District — has provided the conference with a motivational boost. The Minnesota Republican touted the recruitment of diverse candidates leaders feel will provide the party with an edge in November and said that following Garcia’s win, even the skeptics within his conference are starting to voice that they think the party has a shot.
“I use the term bullish. You know, part of this job is you’ve got to put together a game plan, and then you got to get all the players on your team to buy into the game plan. And once they start believing, once they start to see it actually being effective when you implement the game plan, you’re going to hear a lot of our members start telling you, ‘You know what? I thought this was a 50-50 chance, you know, maybe a little bit less … but I’m starting to believe that our chances are much better than 50 percent,’” he told The Hill in an interview, noting that he feels confident with where they stand with five months to go.
Garcia won his May 12 election by just under 10 points in a district The Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index — a nonpartisan, independent report — rates as “even,” while Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) edged out his Democratic opponent, Tricia Zunker, by 14 points in the race for Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, which leans Republican.
Democrats netted 41 seats during the 2018 midterm election cycle, providing the party with the largest gains since Watergate. But Emmer said he feels the GOP has proved its strategy is effective, noting that the party wasn’t expected to win the special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, faced hurdles with California’s 25th and won Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, which Democrats had viewed as a seat in play.
“Just do the math. There are 43 House Democrats sitting in more Republican seats than the one we just won in California last week. And remember, we now only need 17 to reclaim the majority,” he said. “One of the reasons the House flipped 2002 was because of the momentum that was created by special election victories.”
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), a former NRCC chairman, said he thinks Democratic leaders’ handling of the pandemic could also work in Republicans’ favor.
“It is certain that Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] has overreached on spending and politicizing the pandemic,” he said. “There’s still a lot of things which will play out before November, but I think we have a good chance to take back the House today.”