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Facing midterm headwinds, House Democrats target fewer districts

DCCC plans to hit GOP for `defending conspiratorial insurrectionists’

Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney said Republicans on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's initial target list will be  challenged for having a "toxic brand" and opposing relief for working families.
Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney said Republicans on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's initial target list will be challenged for having a "toxic brand" and opposing relief for working families. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats signaled Tuesday that they will be taking a conservative approach to picking up seats next year as they defend their narrow majority and fight historical headwinds facing the party in control of the White House during a midterm election. 

The initial target list from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee includes one open seat and only 21 Republican-held districts where the party will be focusing its resources over the next two years. The list, one of the DCCC’s first official strategy memos this year, is notably shorter than its initial announcement for the 2020 cycle and comes comparatively later. Last cycle’s list of 33 targeted seats was released in January 2019.

Democratic campaign officials said they will spend the coming months reminding constituents in the targeted districts that their Republican representatives voted against President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan, which passed the House and the Senate without GOP support but has been  popular across the political spectrum, according to opinion polls. 

“Every single Republican on this list voted against putting checks in pockets and shots in arms, and we’re going to make sure voters in their district know it,” DCCC Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney said in a statement. “The DCCC is prepared to protect our majority by recruiting compelling candidates and empowering their campaigns with the resources they need to draw the contrast between Democrats’ record of fighting for the middle class and Republicans’ toxic brand of defending conspiratorial insurrectionists and opposing direct relief for working families.”

Nine districts won by Biden

The Democrats’ targets are centered on suburban districts where demographic changes and the leftward shift of white, college-educated voters contributed to the blue wave in the 2018 midterms and to Biden’s victory in November. The list also includes nine districts carried by Biden but where the Democratic House nominee lost by narrow margins. 

It also contains notable omissions. 

Only two of the targeted districts are in Texas, a state that has remained stubbornly difficult for Democrats to crack in spite of demographic trends that have worked in their favor in other parts of the country. The DCCC’s initial target list in the 2020 cycle included six Texas seats. 

The new list also leaves out several districts that Democrats lost in November, including New York’s 11th, New Mexico’s 2nd, Oklahoma’s 5th, Minnesota’s 7th and South Carolina’s 1st. 

`Toxic socialist agenda’

Republicans, who need a net gain of five seats in 2022 to take the majority, seized on those omissions as a sign of Democrats’ vulnerability and of successful GOP messaging around issues such as protecting oil and gas industry jobs from Democratic climate initiatives. 

“The DCCC confirmed what we already knew: Democrats are on defense because they have to defend a toxic socialist agenda focused on raising taxes, opening borders, closing schools and killing jobs,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Michael McAdams said in a statement. 

House Democrats lost a net of 11 seats in the 2020 election. Thirteen of their incumbents were defeated, while they also lost an open Democratic seat and picked up three open GOP seats. No House Republican incumbent lost last cycle. 

Republicans are optimistic they can build on that performance, aided by the historic advantage for the out-of-power party in a midterm cycle. And with Republicans holding the majority of state legislatures and seats expected to be reapportioned this cycle, some analysts think Democrats could lose their House majority through redistricting alone.

The NRCC announced its initial list of 47 Democratic targets in February. 

With the results of the 2020 census delayed, it will be a while before a clear picture of the vulnerable House members emerges. Data showing how the 435 House seats would be apportioned among the 50 states, originally due on Dec. 31, is not expected until the end of this month, and it will be several more months until states get detailed local data needed to redraw district boundaries. 

Here is list of DCCC’s initial targets:  

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