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Pelosi details how Democrats hope to protect and expand House majority

President's favorability this November is key to 2020, but so is ‘fortifying’ freshmen for challenges

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats will lock down their majority by November of 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

LEESBURG, Va. -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi guaranteed Thursday that Democrats will maintain and expand their majority in 2020.

The California Democrat claimed at a Politico Playbook event last week that she will have House races won by this November — one year before general election voters go to the polls. Pelosi expanded on that Thursday by saying President Donald Trump’s standing in in the polls later this year will indicate whether Democrats will be successful.

“I’ve always said I can almost predict how well we will do in an election one year in advance because one year in advance is where you see where the president of the party is,” Pelosi told reporters as her caucus gathered for their annual retreat. “If he’s still in the 40’s, they have a big problem.”

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Pelosi appeared to be referencing the president's favorability ratings nationally. But there are 31 Democrats running in districts that Trump won in 2016 -- seven of them in seats that Trump won by double digits. Republicans believe they can leverage Trump's popularity is these areas to boost GOP challengers.

Pelosi also had a message for those prospective Republican candidates.

“It’s really important for the Republicans in Congress to know that if they’re thinking about running, the president’s numbers are not so great,” Pelosi later added. “It’s going to cost them a lot of money and even if they win, they’ll be serving in the minority. How’s that for a motivator?”

Republicans have said that they are seeing energy among potential House candidates. As of Tuesday, National Republican Congressional Committee recruitment chairwoman Susan Brooks said she had spoken to 112 GOP women interested in running for the House. 

Republicans are targeting 55 House Democrats in their quest for a net gain of 18 or 19 seats to win back the House (depending on the results of a special election in North Carolina’s 9th District).

Pelosi said she will ensure her incumbents are “fortified” for their re-election campaigns. She noted that 18 first-term lawmakers are subcommittee chairs and others are taking the lead on issues.

The freshman class that helped Democrats flip the House in 2018 is particularly vulnerable heading into 2020. Of the 44 lawmakers the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named to its Frontline Program for vulnerable members, 41 are freshmen.

Pelosi also said that fortification involves lawmakers holding town halls and public events in their districts, which members are already highlighting on the campaign trail.

New York Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado‘s campaign released a two-minute digital ad on Thursday touting his town hall meetings in his expansive district. Delgado is one of 31 Democrats representing districts that Trump won in 2016.

Pelosi also touted the DCCC’s field program as key to Democrats’ success. The committee plans to have 60 field organizers on the ground across the country by the end of the month. The DCCC also announced it is opening a southern headquarters in Austin, Texas, as Democrats are targeting six GOP-held seats in the Lone Star State.

“We won in November because we owned the ground. We didn’t give one grain of sand in terms of getting out the vote,” Pelosi said. “We disciplined our message like a jackhammer: for the people, lower health care, bigger paychecks, cleaner government. That was our message. And we had the resources necessary.”

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