02:13 PM EST
House Republicans are feeling good about their defense of President Trump in this month’s impeachment vote, and now want to use the divisive fight to cut into the Democratic majority in next fall’s elections.
Republicans would need to gain about 20 seats to win back the House majority, something seen as a tall order by most political observers.
Much will depend on the presidential election, as a Trump victory would likely offer some coattails for Republicans. Yet Trump’s low approval ratings and the possibility he could again win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote makes the GOP an underdog in seeking to end Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) second Speakership.
Gains by the GOP are much more likely, and Republicans are confident they can use the impeachment votes by many House Democrats against them — starting with those representing districts won by Trump in 2016.
There are 30 such seats following Rep. Jefferson Van Drew’s (N.J.) decision to switch parties and become a Republican.
“For the Democrats running in those 30 Trump districts, they now need to tell their constituents why they voted against their vote for president, and I think that's going to be a very difficult argument to make, especially with President Trump on the ballot,” National Republican Congressional Committee Spokesman Michael McAdams told The Hill.
McAdams argues Democrats will be in a “tricky position” given GOP voters are energized by an impeachment they oppose. He also noted polling that shows independents opposed to impeachment.
Democrats recognize the threat, particularly in districts such as Rep. Joe Cunningham’s in Charleston, S.C., and Kendra Horn’s in Oklahoma City. Those two districts were surprises for Democrats in 2018, with Horn having flipped a seat that had been held by Republicans since 1975 and Cunningham won a district held by the GOP since 1981.
At the same time, they aren’t sweating too much about the possibility of losing their majority.
One Democratic operative pointed to a recent Politico-Morning Consult poll showing 52 percent of respondents support impeaching the president, as well as a funding edge for the party.
The source said they expect Democrats in swing districts to place a strong focus on health care and drug pricing.
“We have a huge, huge, huge advantage on drug prices and health care and it's where we're going to spend our money — money that we have more than they do," the operative said. “We have more money on the hard side than they do, which obviously goes a lot further.”
Given Van Drew’s party switch, just one Democrat — Rep. Collin Peterson (Minn.) — voted against impeachment. Peterson represents a district Trump won by more than 30 points. He’s held it for decades, but is likely to face a tough challenge.
Of the 30 Democrats representing districts won by Trump, McAdams noted that Trump won 13 by more than 6 1/2 points.
He also said New Jersey, where Van Drew appeared to decide his best route to reelection was to run as a Republican, will be a key state. Democrats gained four seats in the state in 2018.
Conservative outside groups have also ramped up spending on anti-impeachment ad campaigns, hammering Democrats on their votes in districts they see as winnable.
Shortly after the House’s impeachment vote, American Action Network announced plans to spend an additional $2.5 million in 29 Trump-won districts held by Democrats, following an $8.5 million spending blitz in the weeks leading up to the articles of impeachment coming to the floor.
And prominent figures in the party have been making the rounds on cable news and taking to social media in an attempt to amplify their anti-impeachment messaging, taking aim at Pelosi and leaders of the inquiry including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said he expects moderate Democrats to try to separate themselves from the impeachment narrative as the election grows nearer.
“There are a lot of Democrats today who voted for people who can't go back home and explain that vote, and I will challenge them if they're getting a lot of people criticizing their vote, I would challenge them to invite Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff to explain what was done today,” he told reporters immediately after the impeachment vote.
The Democratic operative said if Republicans were that confident about winning back the majority in 2020, fewer would be retiring.
So far 25 Republicans have announced they will not run for reelection next year, including Reps. Will Hurd (Texas), Mark Walker (N.C.) and George Holding (N.C.).
Some represent districts that appear likely to be won by Democrats.
The Cook Political Report has Democrats favored to win two seats in North Carolina that will be easier pickups for the party because of new congressional district lines brought about by a court decision. The two seats are held by Walker and Holding.
Democrats are also favored to pick up a seat in Texas.
“If impeachment is so great for them, why are all their members retiring and why are they are not raising more money — two signs that look bad for them in flipping the House,” the operative said.