The GOP, the House in 2020 and Playing to Win, Part 1: The Offense

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The 2020 election, besides the White House and Senate being at stake, will likely be the last House election under the current district maps in each state (where multiple districts exist).  Obviously, the Democrats currently control the lower chamber, but it takes only 18 seats to flip it back to Republican control.  While it is obvious that the GOP must play defense in certain districts come 2020, the election also offers the Republican Party the opportunity to play offense, should they so decide.  Naturally, some of it involves districts they lost in the 2018 midterms, but there are other opportunities out there also.  Further, some of the districts lost in 2018 are likely unattainable lest there be a dramatic shift in 2020.  Specifically, I am referring to districts where the Democratic margin of victory was 6 points or better in 2018.  Although attainable in theory and the GOP should field candidates and not raise the de facto white flag, this article will focus on those districts where the Democratic margin of victory in 2018 in districts lost was 9% or less.


Using these parameters, this writer had determined a total of 37 districts- 23 of which the Democrats won in 2018 by less than 5 points and another 14 where the Democrats won by 6-9%.  I then separated these districts into priorities.  The top priority districts meet the following conditions: the Republican lost by less than 6 points in 2018 and the Cook PVI is even or favors the GOP.  In the middle priority, the parameters are the GOP lost by 6-9 points in 2018 and the Cook PVI either favors the GOP.  For low priority districts, the parameters are the GOP lost by 6-9 points and the Cook PVI favors the Democrats.  This leaves a pool of 21 high priority targets, 9 midlevel targets, and 7 outside chance targets.  Just winning the high priority targets gains the GOP control of the House.

Here are the targets:

High Priority (21)

  1. CA-10- Josh Harder representing area east of San Jose;
  2. CA-39- Gil Cisneros representing Fullerton area;
  3. CA-45- Katie Porter representing Irvine area;
  4. FL-26- Debbie Powell representing southern Florida;
  5. GA-6- Lucy McBath representing north Atlanta suburbs;
  6. IL-14- Lauren Underwood representing far west Chicago suburbs;
  7. IA-2- Dave Loebsack representing Des Moines area WHO IS RETIRING thus creating an open race;
  8. IA-3- Cindy Axne representing southwest portion of the state;
  9. MI-8- Elissa Slotkin- representing west Detroit suburbs;
  10. MN-2- Angie Craig representing suburbs south of Minneapolis-St. Paul*;
  11. NJ-3- Andy Kim representing the central swath of the state;
  12. NJ-7- Tom Malinowski representing the northwest area of the state;
  13. NM-2 Xochitl Small representing the southern half of the state;
  14. NY-22- Anthony Brandisi representing a central portion of the state;
  15. OK-5- Kendra Horn representing Oklahoma City;
  16. SC-1- Joe Cunningham representing coastal section of the state;
  17. TX-7- Lizzie Fletcher representing suburbs west of Houston;
  18. UT-4- Ben McAdams representing Salt Lake City area;
  19. VA-2- Elaine Luria representing eastern portion of the state;
  20. VA-7- Abigail Spanberger representing the DC suburbs, and;
  21. WA-8- Kim Schrier representing the mid-central part of the state.

Some of these losses were in open races where the Republican incumbent retired.  Others involved weak Republican opponents or ones mired in controversy at the time, thus they were self-inflicted losses.


  1. CA-25- Katie Hill representing far northern LA suburbs;
  2. CA-48- Harley Rouda representing northern San Diego suburbs;
  3. FL-27- Donna Shalala representing suburbs south of Miami;
  4. IL-6- Sean Casten representing suburbs north of Chicago;
  5. MI-11- Haley Stevens representing area near Detroit;
  6. NH-1- Chris Pappas;
  7. NY-7- Max Rose representing Staten Island;
  8. PA-8- Matt Cartwright representing northeast corner of the state, and;
  9. TX-32- Collin Allred representing suburbs north of Dallas.


  1. AZ-2- Ann Kirkpatrick representing southeast corner of the state;
  2. IA-1- Abby Finkheimer representing northeast section of the state;
  3. ME-2- Jared Golden;
  4. NV-3- Susie Lee representing southern tip of the state;
  5. NV-4- Steve Horsford representing Las Vegas suburbs;
  6. NJ-2- Jeff Van Drew representing southern portion of the state, and;
  7. NY-19- Antonio Delgado representing a central swath of the state.

The first priority is recruit and fund viable candidates.  And how is the GOP doing here? In all but nine races listed, there is at least one GOP declared candidate and multiple candidates in 21 districts.  How viable are they?  Viability was determined by (1) their political presence in the district and/or  (2)their fundraising ability.  With this second criteria, it is based on the most recent data available and I considered anything over $100,000 in the most recent quarter reported as viable.  Of the 86 declared Republican candidates in these races, 31 make reach the viable level.


Those viable candidates are:

  1. CA-10: former Tracy City councilor, Ted Howze and Bob Elliot;
  2. CA-25: Mike Garcia and Angela Jacobs;
  3. CA-45: former Laguna Hill councilor, Don Sedgwick, Lisa Sparks Greg Raths, and Peggy Huang;
  4. CA-48: Michelle Steele;
  5. FL-26: Irina Vilarino;
  6. GA-6: former US Rep. Karen Handel AND state senator Brandon Beach**;
  7. IL-6: former Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti;
  8. IL-14: state senator Jim Oberweis, state senator Sue Rezin, and Ted Gradell;
  9. IA-1: state representative Ashley Arenholz;
  10. IA-2: former Illinois Congressman Robert Schilling;
  11. IA-3: former Iowa Congressman David Young;
  12. NV-3: former state treasurer Dan Schwartz;
  13.  NV-4: former state assemblyman Jim Marchant;
  14. NJ-7: state senator Tom Kean, Jr.;
  15. NM-2: former state Rep. Yvette Herrell;
  16. NY-22:  Broome County DA Steve Cornwell and George Phillips;
  17. OK-5: state senator Stephanie Bice and Terry Neese**;
  18. SC-1: Beaufort County councilman Mike Covert and Nancy Mace**;
  19. TX-7: Wesley Hunt and Cynthia Siegel, and**;
  20. VA-7: Tina Ramirez

** indicates a runoff if no one meets 50%+1 in the primary

What is important for the GOP intelligentsia is, except in very clear cut cases, steer clear of expressing preferences.  That is especially true when there are two or more viable candidates in a district.  Let the voters of these districts decide, then stand back and support the eventual winners no matter who they are.  Stay out of local politics, which is what House races are, and concentrate on winning the numerical majority in the House.  And having more than one viable GOP candidate in California districts is not necessarily a bad thing since the top two vote getters advance to the general election regardless of party.  In that regard, after a hard fought primary, GOP solidarity is important to win back the House.


It takes only 18 seats to flip, which is attainable, assuming they hold seats, which is no guarantee either.  The Democrats have targeted 32 Republican-held House seats in 2020 which will be the subject of the next installment.


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