Politics

Confident Republicans compete for seats in Biden Country

House and Senate Republicans are growing increasingly confident that a predicted red wave in November will sweep into blue districts that supported President Biden in 2020.

Growing optimism has propelled the House GOP campaign effort into New England, which rarely elects GOP lawmakers to Congress.

“We’re going to get a seat in New England, I’m telling you right now,” Rep. Tom Emmers, chairman of the House GOP campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee, said during a recent briefing with reporters.

The Senate GOP is also setting an ambitious campaign agenda.

The Senate Leadership Fund, the political action committee tied to Minority Leader and Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, is spending $141 million on fall campaign advertising in swing states that Republicans hope to flip in November.

The list includes Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, where Democratic incumbents are battling voter dissatisfaction both with Mr. Biden and the Democratic agenda. The SLF plans to spend a staggering $37.1 million in Georgia alone in a bid to win back a seat flipped by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in a January 2021 runoff, officials announced Monday.

 House Republicans are targeting an ambitious 60 seats in districts carried by Mr. Biden in 2020, including six seats held by Democrats in New England — two in New Hampshire, two in Connecticut and one each in Maine and Rhode Island.

The House list includes 32 districts Mr. Biden won by at least ten points.

Two of the targeted seats are in Connecticut, held by Democratic Reps. Joe Courtney and Jahana Hayes, who are both running for re-election. One seat is in Rhode Island, where Republicans are hoping to win a seat left open by Democratic Rep. Jim Langevin, who is retiring.

Connecticut has not sent a GOP lawmaker to the House since Rep. Nancy Johnson was reelected to a second and final term in 2005.

Rhode Island has not elected a Republican to the House in three decades.

Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan race analysis website Inside Elections, told The Washington Times that the 2021 election, in which voters put Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin in the Virginia governor’s mansion and nearly defeated New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, should have sent an early signal to Democrats that the GOP would add many Biden-won districts to their 2022 target list.

“Republicans should be trying to get as many credible challengers in as many districts as possible to take advantage of opportunities as they surface,” Mr. Gonzales said. “It will be at least a few months before Republicans will have to narrow the list a bit and decide where they are going to spend money. For now, they might as well try to shoot the moon. “

Some of the GOP’s target list is wildly ambitious.

Mr. Gonzales lists only two Democrat-held New England seats, Mr. Hayes in Connecticut and Rep. Jared Golden in Maine, as competitive, and Mr. Hayes’ seat is listed as “likely” to remain in Democratic control.

The district in Rhode Island left open by Mr. Langevin’s retirement voted for Mr. Biden over former President Donald Trump by nearly 14 percentage points, while two New Hampshire seats held by Democratic Reps. Chris Pappas and Ann Kuster went for Mr. Biden by six points and nearly nine points, respectively.

But Republicans’ hopes for an extended red wave are fueled by polling that indicates voters are fed up with Mr. Biden as well as the Democratic agenda in Congress, which has centered on tax-and-spend policies and climate-change initiatives that many critics say have led to sky-high inflation and rising energy prices.

The extended lockdowns and mandates, as well as the influx of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants along the southern border for months on end, has damaged Mr. Biden’s approval rating, pushing it down into the upper 30s in some surveys.

The Republican Party is also riding on a wave of dissatisfaction with the vocal and influential liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which has promoted defunding the police and implementing “woke” school curricula such as critical race theory, and teaching students about LGBTQ issues.

“Frankly, the Democrats are seeing the same thing we are,” said Mr. Emmers, of Minnesota. “Voters want no part of their radical left-wing agenda that has created higher prices, soaring crime and a crisis at our southern border.”

Democratic campaign officials scoffed at the GOP’s confidence, noting that Democratic House candidates often out-perform the top of the ticket, although in this election Mr. Biden’s name won’t be on the ballot.

Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Democrats have an $80 million cash-on-hand advantage over Republican challengers in some of the most vulnerable districts.

Mr. Taylor said the party will use the money to promote economic growth during the Biden administration and expose the Republican agenda, in particular a proposal by Senate campaign arm chairman Sen. Rick Scott of Florida.  Mr. Scott’s proposal, which the GOP leadership opposes, would require even the lowest income levels to pay taxes and would sunset all federal laws every five years.

“Democrats in Congress have the war chest needed to expose their dangerous agenda for America and remind voters it was Democrats who rebooted the economy and created 7.9 million jobs,” Mr. Taylor said.

Democrats point to GOP infighting in primaries where Trump-endorsed candidates are facing off against more traditional Republicans.

In Wisconsin’s 3rd Congressional District, for example, Derrick Van Orden is poised to win the GOP primary in his bid for a House seat long held by Democratic Rep. Ron Kind, who is retiring. 

Mr. Van Orden, who is endorsed by Mr. Trump, was outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot. Democrats have filed a complaint against Mr. Van Orden with the Federal Election Commission, accusing him of improperly using campaign funds to pay for his trip to the Capitol.

“You’re going to run that candidate in the suburbs of Wisconsin?” a top Democratic operative said.

Mr. Van Orden acknowledged he was at the Capitol, but left when the crowd of people began pushing back police and stormed the building.

The political outlook for Democrats has brightened in Texas, where Republicans have been eyeing the 28th Congressional District, held by popular longtime incumbent and moderate Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar.

The FBI raided Mr. Cuellar’s residence in January as part of an investigation tied to Azerbaijan. Just a few weeks later, Mr. Cuellar was unable to clear 50% of the vote in the state’s Democratic primary, forcing him into a runoff with liberal Democrat Jessica Cisneros.

Ms. Cisneros, who embraces such far-left ideas as the Green New Deal, would be a much easier candidate for the GOP to challenge in November in the moderate district. She helped force a runoff by campaigning heavily on the FBI raid and accusing Mr. Cuellar of failing to serve the interests of the district.

But Mr. Cuellar last week was cleared by the FBI in an announcement from Mr. Cuellar’s lawyer that stated he was not the subject of their investigation.

Mr. Cuellar faces Ms. Cinsneros in a May 24 runoff.

“He’s got the loyalty there with him, and his relationship with the district,” a Democratic source told The Washington Times. “I think he’s going to be fine.”

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