By Targeting Obama Districts, House Republicans Have Strongest Majority In Nearly A Century
The following is a memo written by the National Republican Congressional Committee:
“Obama, fresh off his November reelection, began almost at once executing plans to win back the House in 2014, which he and his advisers believe will be crucial to the outcome of his second term and to his legacy as president.” – The Washington Post, March 2, 2013
Nancy Pelosi had several reasons to be excited.
President Obama had just been reelected to a second term and he was finally ready to make a strong commitment to ensuring she would be Speaker of the House once again. It wasn’t just for Pelosi’s sake though, even President Obama realized that his last, best hope at giving new life to his presidency was to, once more, gain complete liberal control of Washington.
Upon finishing his victory speech, President Obama affirmed this commitment in a phone call to both Pelosi and DCCC Chairman Steve Israel. His political team began at once formulating a strategy. For the next two years, they raised money, recruited candidates, and deployed their ground game with the singular goal of winning back what they’d lost in 2010.
But Republicans fought back.
Aided by the failure of ObamaCare, President Obama’s steep drop in approval ratings, and an administration beset by scandal, the NRCC went on offense in Obama districts across the country…and won.
Because we recruited the right candidates; modernized our ground game and digital operations; focused on 7 Democrats wildly out-of-step with their conservative districts; and dominated special elections—all while overcoming the vaunted Obama campaign operation and playing in several competitive open seats—House Republicans woke up this morning with a stronger and more diverse House majority. In fact, the largest GOP House majority since the 1920s.
Exactly 729 days from Obama’s election night call, House Democrats are weaker than they’ve been in nearly a century. In January, there will be more Republicans in the United States House of Representatives since the advent of broadcast television.
Going On Offense In Obama Districts
The fight for the House was fought and won in districts President Obama won in 2012. There is no better example of this than in New York. DCCC Chairman Steve Israel called his home state the “center of gravity” this cycle, yet Republicans dominated the state Tuesday night flipping 3 Democrat districts and reelecting all Republican incumbents.
But it wasn’t just the Empire State where our party saw success; Republicans went on offense in deep-blue territory. In fact, more than 70 percent of our resources were spent in Obama districts. It paid off.
Take for example New York’s 24th district, where Republican John Katko beat incumbent Democrat Dan Maffei by 20 points. In 2012, that very same district voted for President Obama by 16 points.
It wasn’t just New York that was the harbinger of a banner GOP night. In Iowa, Rod Blum won the 1st district and David Young was victorious in the 3rd—both districts voted for President Obama two years ago. Same was the case in President Obama’s home state, where we claimed two Democrat districts.
President Obama may have bragged that his policies were “on the ballot” Tuesday night, but even in Obama districts across the country, the verdict couldn’t have been clearer.
The environment and the NRCC can only do so much. In the end, candidates must win their races.
Our effort was buoyed because we had strong candidates that fit their districts. Whether it was Barbara Comstock in Virginia or Mike Bost in Illinois, they proved they could fend off well-funded opponents by speaking to the issues that voters care about.
On the flip side, Democrats had candidate after candidate that were fundamentally flawed. Few candidates announced to more fanfare than New York’s Sean Eldridge. Yet soon after his carpetbagging campaign took off, he was exposed for the out-of-touch hypocrite he was and not even his personal fortune could save him from a humiliating 30 point defeat at the hands of Chris Gibson.
In Florida, freshman Congressman Joe Garcia also lost reelection convincingly. Garcia came to Washington, but soon became part of the problem. After promising voters to clean up Washington, he spent his only term in Congress embroiled in scandal. His short, yet embarrassing tenure has given way to a fresh start by the election of Republican Carlos Curbelo.
Democrats knew this difference existed very early on. That’s why they attempted to prop up their weak incumbents by spending money meddling in Republican primaries. Their efforts yielded not a single success however. In every single targeted race, the candidate who emerged from the primary was not just viable, but stronger and ready for the fight in the fall.
Strong And Early Recruiting Makes For A More Diverse Conference
You cannot get strong and competitive candidates without an aggressive recruiting effort. The NRCC took this responsibility seriously and the results speak for themselves.
Down in the Lone Star state, Will Hurd is coming to Washington as an African-American Republican in a majority-Hispanic district. Hurd, a former CIA agent, has spent his life in service to his country and he will continue his duty as a representative for Texas’ 23rd district.
Republicans will also welcome the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. In Elise Stefanik, not only does New York’s 21st district have a proud and committed voice in Washington, but our party has a new generation of leadership.
In the very same state, Lee Zeldin defeated the scandal-tarred Democrat Tim Bishop. Zeldin is a former Army officer and Iraq War veteran.
These new members of Congress have impressive backgrounds and will add to our conference. They’re also products of the districts they represent. That does not happen by accident.
Once again, compare our recruiting efforts to our counterparts at the DCCC. Their committee’s public “recruiting fails” became practically a weekly occurrence. From Michael Rubio in California to former Congressman John Boccieri in Ohio, Democrats simply weren’t willing to take the plunge this time around.
However, there was no more humiliating recruiting failure than in Florida’s 13th district. Just weeks after David Jolly edged out Democrat Alex Sink to win this Obama district in a special election, Democrats were left without a candidate when Sink declined to run again. They finally backed an independent candidate only to have him drop out weeks later. That earned DCCC Chairman Steve Israel The Washington Post’s “Worst Week in Washington” award.
The Tip Of The Spear
Early in 2013, the NRCC made a commitment to 7 districts across the country. These were districts that President Bush won in 2004, John McCain won in 2008, and Mitt Romney won in 2012, yet elected a Democrat vastly out-of-step with its constituents. The RedZone program was an organization-wide effort to reclaim strongly Republican seats and elect top-tier recruits to Congress.
Our purpose was to not only defeat these Democrats in November, but discourage them from running at all. With Jim Matheson and Mike McIntyre, we succeeded and Congressman-elect David Rouzer and Congresswoman-elect Mia Love will be joining the next Congress.
For the Democrats who held on, they faced top Republican candidates and received the NRCC’s full organizational might. We defined these incumbents early and never took our foot off the gas. Races that were thought to be cakewalks turned into knockdown, drag-out fights and, in turn, victories.
John Barrow and Nick Rahall will not be returning in January. They will be replaced by Rick Allen and Evan Jenkins, members who fit their districts and will speak to the issues their constituents care about. After years in office, Barrow’s record of supporting President Obama and Nancy Pelosi finally caught up with him. Now the people of Georgia’s 12th district will finally have a representative that will speak to their values.
In West Virginia, Evan Jenkins will lead the fight to reverse President Obama and Nick Rahall’s war on coal. For too long, Nick Rahall stood against West Virginians’ interests and stood up for President Obama. It’s time that the state’s 3rd district gets a congressman who will stand up for them.
Special Election Dominance
Several new Republicans members joined our conference over the course of the 113th Congress. But two of them had to do it while overcoming strong Democrat opposition. Special elections are special for a reason, but they can give great insight into the political environment and what it takes to win.
There’s no better example of this than in Florida’s 13th district. David Jolly, a former staffer to the late Congress Bill Young, was elected to Congress in a district Obama won twice by defeating a Democrat who had previously won the district during 2 previous statewide campaigns.
Modernizing Our Digital And Data
One of the things that became abundantly clear in 2012: we needed to modernize our online presence. We began by recruiting one of the largest and talented digital teams in Republican politics.
We examined everything we did from top-to-bottom from our social media to email fundraising.
One of the largest and most noticeable changes was the redesign of our website, NRCC.org. The website has now weaponized our communications team by moving toward a more content-based messaging strategy.
Another area of digital to be extremely proud of is our success in growing our online fundraising. Through the website, social media, and email fundraising, we saw a 400 percent increase. In fact, we raised more money online in both September and October 2014 respectively than we did the entire 2012 cycle. This allowed us to add to our resources and hone another powerful weapon in the online war.
Before you can persuade voters, you must first identify them and what they care about. That’s why the NRCC made a full-scale commitment to data this cycle. In January 2013, the NRCC created a Strategy Department to focus on gathering voter information and using it to win elections. By using a winnowed version of the RNC’s voter file, we were able to customize and personalize vote goals for campaigns. This program, which we affectionately call Honey Badger, compiles all the ID work—both volunteer and paid—and enables us to visualize how campaigns are doing in specific sub-groups. This way, we know exactly where our votes are coming from.
Throughout the cycle, we simulated over 120 different elections and were able to see not just what we needed to do to win, but what Democrats needed as well.
Make no mistake: there were steep challenges to overcome to get where we are today. Chief among them was ensuring we had the resources to compete.
President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi crisscrossed the country raising campaign cash for Democrats and the DCCC. They even promised they’d win 25 seats last night. No matter how strong or large a House majority you have, President Obama parachuting into a city and raising millions at the drop of a hat is simply something Republicans can’t match.
Republicans were drastically outspent in August and September. In Cook Political Report’s most competitive races Democrats spent 50 percent more than Republicans during those months.
Another unexpected obstacle was the sudden multitude of competitive open seats. Whether it was in the suburbs of northern Virginia or the towns of southwest Iowa, we as a committee were forced to defend the seats of longtime Republican members who had retired. While this didn’t detract from our goal to stay on offense in Obama territory, it certainly further depleted our organization’s time, attention, and money.
In spite of this dual focus, we were still successful on both fronts. We pushed deep into Obama territory, while still holding seats that have been in Republican hands for decades. In doing so, we welcome the next generation of Republican leaders from those districts.
A Historic Night
The message of this election is that people are tired of President Obama and his administration that has become disengaged from voters. In the final two years, House Republicans will keep the promises they made on the campaign trail: create jobs, advocate for a patient-centered healthcare system, and maintain a check on a president who has lost the trust of the American people.
Thanks to the support of our Republican conference, last night was a historic night for our party and our nation.