Fresh off the second weekend of nationwide protests against President Donald Trump, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has released its initial list of Republican-held seats it plans to target in 2018.
The House Democrats’ campaign arm is banking on Trump’s unpopularity being a drag on down-ballot Republicans, even though many GOP incumbents proved resilient to efforts to tie them to Trump in 2016. Democrats gained a net of six seats last November.
Of the 59 seats the DCCC says it is targeting as of now, Trump carried at least eight of them by 15 points or more, according to calculations by Daily Kos Elections.
That includes deep-red territory like Alabama’s 2nd District, currently held by Rep. Martha Roby, which Trump won by 32 points. Roby could be interested in replacing Sen. Jeff Sessions if he’s confirmed as attorney general. Her opposition to Trump last fall and her relatively close re-election, thanks to a write-in challenger from the right, sparked early chatter about a possible contested GOP primary in 2018.
The DCCC is also going after upstate New York’s 27th District held by Trump loyalist Chris Collins, which the president carried by 25 points.
Another deep-red target is Alex Mooney’s seat in West Virginia, which Trump carried by 36 points. Democrats contested the 2nd district in 2014, soon after Mooney moved to the state from Maryland to run for office, but national Democrats let it go in 2016 after the DCCC’s preferred primary candidate lost.
The DCCC list includes North Carolina’s 8th and 9th districts that Trump carried by double digits last year, and the 13th district that he carried by 9 points.
Democrats point to the historical trend of the party that controls the White House losing congressional seats in midterm elections and argue that House GOP policies, especially efforts to repeal the 2010 health care law, will backfire.
“On policy, House Republicans are taking the wrong lessons from 2016: kowtowing to Trump’s most divisive policies like his border wall, while opposing him on popular plans to preserve Medicare or action on trade,” DCCC Executive Director Dan Sena wrote in a memo announcing the committee’s targets.
Compared to 2016, the DCCC is targeting even more well-educated suburban districts — including those that have traditionally gone red.
Democrats made late investments in Kansas’ 3rd District last cycle, sensing that Trump (and Gov. Sam Brownback) could bring down Rep. Kevin Yoder. The congressman prevailed by 11 points, but Clinton won his district by a point, and now Yoder’s starting off the cycle on the target list.
In another similarly well-educated and affluent suburban district, Democrats now plan to go after new House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, who’s represented New Jersey’s 11th District since 1995.
The most obvious of the DCCC targets are the 23 GOP districts that Clinton won. Several of those incumbents strongly over-performed the top of the ticket in November — Florida’s Carlos Curbelo, New York’s John Katko and Virginia’s Barbara Comstock, for instance.
Seven of the 23 districts Clinton won are seats that former President Barack Obama did not carry, the DCCC pointed out. Sena thinks this may indicate “a potential Trump-driven problem" for them.
The GOP quickly tried to downplay the DCCC’s strategy, with National Republican Congressional Committee national spokesman Jesse Hunt arguing that Republicans in Clinton districts aren't vulnerable because they won by an average of 14 points.
Democrats contend that President Trump may have a different effect than candidate Trump did in 2016. In his Monday memo, Sena noted that the committee’s grass-roots support has grown in January, particularly since the inauguration and the Women’s March on Washington, and that January fundraising set an online record for the first month of the year.
Correction: Due to an editing error, Donald Trump’s winning margin in North Carolina’s 13th District was incorrectly reported as 7 points. According to calculations by Daily Kos Elections, he carried the district by 9 points.