National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden signaled that he plans to stay on offense in 2014 with the aim of expanding his party's 17-seat majority.
In a Wednesday memo to the House Republican Conference obtained exclusively by CQ Roll Call, Walden says his committee will be "aggressively expanding the playing field" thanks, in part, to Democratic recruitment struggles.
"The question facing Democrats is how, if they are struggling on their home court, will they ever win the Republican-leaning districts they need to regain the majority?” Walden wrote to his colleagues.
He went on to highlight Democratic candidates who dropped their House bids early in the cycle, framing them as recruitment failures. He named-checked former candidates such as hotel magnate Jim Graves in Minnesota's 6th District and former state Sen. Staci Appel in Iowa's 3rd District.
Walden also cited promising polling in a handful of House seats held by Democrats, including:
- California's 36th District: Republican Assemblyman Brian Nestande led Democratic Rep. Raul Ruiz 44 percent to 41 percent, with 13 percent of respondents favoring someone else or unsure, according to a mid-May bilingual survey from Harper Polling. The survey had a margin of error of 4.9 points. Nestande has already announced he will challenge Ruiz.
- California's 52nd District: Republican Carl DeMaio led Democratic Rep. Scott Peters 49 percent to 39 percent, according to a live survey conducted by the Tarrance Group, a GOP firm, April 22-24. CQ Roll Call reported on the results of this poll in May and since then, DeMaio has announced he will challenge Peters.
- Illinois' 10th District: Former Rep. Robert Dold, a Republican, led Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider in a rematch 44 percent to 39 percent, with 17 percent of survey respondents undecided, according to a mid-May Harper poll. The survey had a margin of error of 4.9 points. CQ Roll Call recently reported that Dold will face Schneider again in 2014.
- Illinois' 12th District: Republican state Rep. Mike Bost led Democratic Rep. Bill Enyart 33 percent to 27 percent, according to an early May survey from Harper Polling. However, a large number of respondents, 40 percent, said they were undecided. The survey had a margin of error of 3.3 points. Republicans expect Bost to announce a campaign in the coming weeks.
- Utah's 4th District: Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson led GOP challenger Mia Love by 3 points, according to a mid-May poll from Harper Polling. The survey had a margin of error of 4 points. Love has already announced she will seek a rematch with Matheson, who defeated her by fewer than 800 votes last year.
Last cycle, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was bullish about taking the majority. But the party fell significantly short of that goal, despite picking up a respectable net of eight seats on election night.
So far this cycle, House Democrats have focused on recruitment in specific races instead, and DCCC operatives express confidence in candidates such as Gwen Graham of Florida and Domenic Recchia of New York who they say can put Republican seats in play as well.
“Republicans pledged to be on offense in 2012 and then lost more seats than anyone expected — and it looks like they’re headed down the same track,” DCCC spokeswoman Emily Bittner wrote in an email.