Strategy To Remain On Offense Keeps House In GOP Hands
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is a political committee devoted to maintaining and increasing the 239-member Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.
To win in 2012, you had to understand 2010.
Republicans made historic gains two years ago – defeating Democrats in every region of the country and evicting Nancy Pelosi from the Speaker’s chair. These wins were born out of America’s frustration with Washington. For two years straight, Democrats ruthlessly forced a big-government, Washington-knows-best agenda on the American people. It was a disaster for the economy and for the Democrats, it proved a disaster at the ballot box.
When the dust settled, few believed Republicans would be in a position to maintain a lock on this new majority. Angered and emboldened by their landslide losses, Democrats declared a war on our new Members. But in the bitterness of their defeat, they made a seismic miscalculation: Democrats fundamentally ignored the message of 2010. Republicans, meanwhile, kept our promise to the voters who elected us.
As the campaign unfolded, Democrats pulled out the same aged and generic playbook that ignored the message they were sent by voters in 2010. Republicans zeroed in on the hard work of campaigning, never taking anything for granted. From recruiting to redistricting, we entered this cycle on the offensive and never stopped. We forced Democrat incumbents into retirement. We shrunk the playing field for our opponents. We consistently outpaced them with resources. To top it all off, Republicans even managed what everyone thought was the impossible: We actually won the Medicare debate.
Nancy Pelosi will never, ever be Speaker of the House again. This is the story of why.
An Offensive Strategy From the Beginning
By picking up where we left off in 2010 and highlighting pickup opportunities, House Republicans effectively defined the playing field for the 2012 cycle and forced Democrats to defend their own turf. With ten formerly Democrat-held seats now in the Republican column (and more yet to be decided), it’s safe to say the NRCC’s strategy reaped significant benefits for House Republicans.
The NRCC spent 98% of its resources on offense in 2010 leading to historic Republican gains in the House. Using our strong cash-on-hand advantage in 2012, we were able to continue to force Democrats to spend money on their own turf:
Because of our aggressive efforts, several self-proclaimed moderate Democrats gave up their conservative façade and retired. This left national Democrats with even more of a challenge to recruit new candidates and convince American voters that they represent fiscally responsible principles and not just dangerously partisan policies.
In 2011, we showered vulnerable Democrats in tough districts with ad campaigns, putting them on defense over their reckless spending addiction while in Congress. For example, Dan Boren held a Republican-favored district in Oklahoma’s second district before retiring amid a barrage of paid media from the NRCC:
“On the day after the midterm elections, NRCC Executive Director Guy Harrison held a conference call with reporters and singled out Boren as a top 2012 target. Just hours before his unexpected retirement announcement, the NRCC launched a series of robocalls in Boren’s district hammering Democrats over Medicare.” (David Catanese & Alex Isenstadt, Another Blue Dog bites the dust, Politico, 6/9/11)
In all, twenty-seven House Democrats announced their retirement from the House of Representatives during the 112th Congress.
The End of “The Blue Dogs”
After the 2010 midterm election, the Blue Dog Coalition suffered serious losses, going from 54 to 25 members. These self-proclaimed “moderate” Democrats paved the way for their own extinction by consistently backing Nancy Pelosi’s big-government agenda. With targeted ad blitzes and constant pressure, the NRCC was able to capitalize on the vulnerability associated with this weakened coalition of politicians who would tell voters one thing in their districts and vote the other way in Washington.
As the Savannah Morning News put it, “like sharks smelling blood in the water,” the NRCC spent the 2012 cycle pressuring many vulnerable Democrats to retire and met success, including in these districts:
NC-11: “Democratic U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler is the target of a TV ad campaign that begins today, marking the beginning of Republican efforts to pick up several seats in North Carolina in 2012. The National Republican Congressional Committee began airing a three-week TV campaign that portrays Shuler as fiscally irresponsible.” (Mary Cornatzer & Rob Christensen, “GOP ads go after Shuler's U.S. House seat,” News & Observer, 3/21/2011)
CA-18: “National Republican Congressional Committee operatives, who posted a new anti-Cardoza television ad today, already have indicated they plan to take the offensive against Central Valley Democrats.” (Michael Doyle, “Clovis native may run for Rep. Costa's seat,” Fresno Bee, 9/15/2011)
The redistricting process effectively ended any pipe dream the Democrats had of returning Nancy Pelosi to the Speaker’s chair. The nationwide results of this process reflect how House Republicans made a solid majority stronger and shrunk the playing field for House Democrats for many election cycles to come.
Our aggressive pursuit to solidify the Republican majority – led by NRCC Redistricting Chairman Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) – resulted in taking 18 Republican seats out of play and making 17 endangered Republican seats safer. Additionally, we put 16 new Democrat seats in play. According to Stu Rothenberg, those changes “benefitted Republicans dramatically,” devastating the House Democrats’ path to the majority:
“But Democrats' path back to the majority keeps getting steeper as Republicans solidify previously precarious seats in states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and even Washington.” (David Wasserman, “January 2012 Redistricting Scorecard & Updates,” Cook Political Report, 1/5/2012)
House Republicans were able to make significant gains in North Carolina, resulting in three GOP pick-ups with another race too close to call.
Thanks to these efforts, the “Drive to 25” math for House Democrats never added up:
“[T]hanks to redistricting and retirements, Democrats enter 2012 with far more "liability" seats of their own than they had in 2006 and 2008 or than Republicans had in 2010…” (David Wasserman, “FEC Roundup: 25 Seats? Democrats Really Need 40,” Cook Political Report, 2/9/2012)
NRCC Recruitment Chairman Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) diligent recruitment efforts were able to position strong Republican candidates in the Young Guns program to hold Democrats accountable.
Thanks to its co-founders Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the NRCC Young Guns Program has been responsible for helping candidates develop strong and winning campaigns. In 2010 and 2012, the Young Gun Program has met enormous success in keeping House Republicans on offense and in helping build a lasting majority. In 2010, 62 of more than 92 Young Guns were elected to the 112th Congress. This cycle, the Young Guns Program raised over $8.5 million.
Confronting Mediscare. Hitting Back With ObamaCare
National Democrats put all their eggs into one basket – thinking they could “Mediscare” their way to the House majority. In fact, 64 of the 123 House Democrats’ TV ads were on Medicare. The rhetoric from Democrats has been that House Republicans’ fiscal budget would put us in “deep jeopardy” and now the “wind is at their backs.” Our message to Democrats who would rather scare seniors than fix our broken economy has been, and will continue to be: bring it on.
Steve Israel went so far as to name Paul Ryan a DCCC “Majority Maker” in their premature celebration:
“Nearly three months after the Ryan pick was made, it’s clear that these attacks never really took hold.” (Alex Isenstadt, “Dems' drive to retake House falters,” Politico, 11/4/2012)
But what they expected to be their best political ammo fell flat:
“Neither Rep. Kathy Hochul's (D-NY 27) 2011 special election win nor Paul Ryan's VP nomination foretold Medicare as the galvanizing issue that Dems once hoped.” (“House Race Hotline: Medicare,” National Journal, 11/5/2012)
Any opportunity we had to talk about ObamaCare, and the $700 billion in Medicare cuts that paid for it, was an opportunity that we never passed up. Democrats were unprepared to defend ObamaCare’s egregious faults, despite three years of constantly selling it to voters.
Special Elections Are Special
When Democrats won a special election in upstate New York, they proclaimed it was solely due to the backlash against Paul Ryan’s budget. That assertion couldn’t have been proven more wrong last night with the sound defeat of Kathy Hochul in NY-27. Not only did Hochul go down in defeat but the DCCC’s Mediscare playbook went down with her. In addition, special election winner Congressman Mark Critz was defeated last night – proving that special elections are called “special” for a reason. These embarrassing defeats demonstrate that putting all your messaging eggs in one basket based on a special election victory is a risky political strategy.
Keeping Our Promise to the American People
The past two cycles have been a referendum on the Democrats’ failed economic agenda. House Republicans have dedicated their efforts to representing the needs and wants of the American people, not a massive government-run system that benefits Democrat special interests and Washington bureaucrats.
Under the leadership of Chairman Pete Sessions, the NRCC was able to preserve a fiscally responsible, pro-growth majority in the House of Representatives that will continue to work tirelessly to defend individual freedom and prosperity for all Americans. Our Republican team will always be ready to fight for a great America and against any threat to economic growth and job creation.