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Emmer, House GOP see majority in reach for 2022

‘High expectations’ after party beat expectations this year

Rep. Tom Emmer, the Minnesota Republican who chaired his party’s House campaign arm this election cycle, sees a GOP majority coming into view in 2022. 

Emmer, who is expected to reprise his role as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee for the coming election cycle, already has his sights set on districts where Democrats just barely kept their seats on Election Day. Republicans have history on their side too: The party out of power in the executive branch typically picks up seats in midterm elections. 

And with Democrats’ majority in the 117th Congress likely to be razor-slim, Republicans will probably need a net gain in the single digits to retake the gavels in two years.  

“We’re going to have high expectations,” Emmer told CQ Roll Call in an interview Friday. “We are going to meet those expectations by winning back the majority.”

After an Election Day that did not meet their party’s expectations of picking up seats in the House and winning a majority in the Senate, Democrats have begun to do some soul-searching. That internal inspection has publicly exposed divides, particularly between members in more GOP-leaning districts and those in deep-blue seats who want action on a bold, left-wing agenda. 

It’s the Democrats in Republican-leaning districts whom Emmer sees as increasingly vulnerable heading into the 2022 cycle. So far, no House GOP incumbents have lost, although some races have not yet been called.

Emmer said the committee’s top targets next cycle include Democrats who won reelection by slim margins, pointing specifically to districts in Michigan, Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, Iowa and Texas. Aside from Texas, those states include Democrats who flipped GOP-held seats in 2018 in districts that President Donald Trump carried in 2016. So far, 21 of the 30 Democrats in so-called Trump districts have won reelection. 

Turning out Trump voters

Even though Trump will not be on the ballot in 2022, Emmer was confident the president’s supporters would turn out to vote in two years despite staying at home in 2018. Emmer signaled that, with Joe Biden in the White House, Republicans would be motivated to head to the polls.  

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“2018 was a check on executive power,” Emmer said. “That’s the issue that Democrats are going to be faced with in two years.”

“The party that doesn’t have the White House is extraordinarily energized to come out and vote against the executive moving towards $4 trillion in tax hikes and the Green New Deal and a cashless bail and trying to federalize our elections after what we’ve seen in this election process,” Emmer said. “I think that’s only going to serve to energize people.”

Democrats have not yet selected the leader of their House campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They will do so next week, likely picking between California Rep. Tony Cárdenas and New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi struck an optimistic tone Friday about her party’s chances in 2022, after spending time speaking with House Democrats who lost their races.

“I have pages — in fact, books — of notes about how they saw what happened in their districts and how they see how we go forward,” she said.

“We are getting ready already for the next time,” she added. “A number of our candidates have already said they’re going to run again. I’m not going to make any announcements for anybody, but a number of them told me that they’re ready, they love being in Congress, they were proud to have won [in 2018] and they were proud of the campaign that they made.”

One freshman member from Pelosi’s home state of California, Harley Rouda, said he would run again in 2022 in the statement conceding his loss to Republican Michelle Steel.

‘Formula for success’

Emmer said Republicans had found “the formula for success” in 2020. 

“It starts with great candidates,” Emmer said. “It’s got to be the right message, and it’s about having enough resources on the Republican side. We understand we’re never going to have their resources, but clearly we had enough.”

When it comes to recruiting candidates, Emmer said he plans to replicate the approach the committee used in 2020 by engaging state delegations. It’s not yet clear who will replace retiring Indiana Rep. Susan A. Brooks as NRCC recruitment chair, but Emmer said he has had “several members who have expressed interest.”

Emmer noted the diversity of the incoming GOP freshmen. Of the nine seats the GOP has flipped so far, eight of them were with Republican women. That doesn’t include New York’s 11th District since The Associated Press has not called the race, but Democratic Rep. Max Rose conceded to GOP Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis on Thursday. 

Primaries have proved to be an obstacle for GOP women in the past. Emmer stressed that the NRCC will continue its policy of not taking sides in primaries, but he noted that individual lawmakers can do so. 

For Emmer, the “formula for success” also includes railing against a party that he says is embracing socialism, and he plans to continue to stress that message going into the 2022 cycle. Emmer said a Democratic colleague told him two years ago that only a small number of Democrats are calling for socialism and those members have “oversized voices.” 

Emmer said he replied, “Well that may be the case, but if you’re not willing to stand up, speak up and fight to take my grandfather’s Democrat Party back, I’m going to make sure you own it.”

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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