First on CNN: House Republicans unveil top 2016 targets

The race: Jeb Bush is his 'own man,' but ...
The race: Jeb Bush is his 'own man,' but ...


    The race: Jeb Bush is his 'own man,' but ...


The race: Jeb Bush is his 'own man,' but ... 01:23

Washington (CNN)House Republicans on Wednesday will unveil their top Democratic targets for the 2016 election, shared first with CNN, as they head into a tough cycle looking to expand an already historic majority.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is also launching an Oscars-themed messaging push tying current vulnerable Democrats to past incumbents who were defeated in previous cycles.
Though they came out of 2014 enjoying their largest majority since 1928, House Republicans will have to play offense if they hope to avoid losing ground this cycle, as presidential-level turnout will favor Democrats in many battleground districts that they either lost or failed to contest in 2014. Democrats have already signaled they plan to play in nearly 70 seats this cycle, in pursuit of the 30 seats they'd need to take back the House.
    To prevent that outcome, the NRCC on Wednesday announced 19 top Democratic targets for defeat. The list includes perennial favorites, like Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Scott Peters of California, as well as some new faces, like Florida Rep. Gwen Graham and Nebraska Rep. Brad Ashford, the only two Democrats to defeat GOP incumbents in 2014.
    Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, is a top target for Republicans in 2016.
    All of the 14 Democrats named as the party's most vulnerable incumbents are on the NRCC's target list.
    And the Oscars-themed messaging push is aimed at reminding voters that past defeats are precedent for Democrats going forward.
    It's centered around a website,, where political observers can go during the Oscars and see which Democratic incumbents win awards named losing Democratic incumbents.
    Freshmen Graham, Ashford and Californian Pete Aguilar have all been nominated for "The Brad Schneider: For most likely to be one-and-done," a reference to the one-term Illinois Democrat defeated in 2014.
    Florida Rep. Patrick Murphy, seen as a likely Florida Senate contender, and Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, another potential Senate candidate, are both nominated for "The Bruce 'Bailey": Most likely to run for Senate, lose and leave an open House seat." Former Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley gave up his seat to make a failed bid for Senate, and Republicans picked up the seat he vacated.
    Other awards include the "Carol Shea-Porter: For the most out-of-touch liberal record;" the "Tim 'Mailman' Bishop: For delivering bad behavior and bad headlines" and the "John Barrow: For the most two-faced politician."
    NRCC Communications Director Katie Martin also hinted in a statement that Republicans plan to paint the vulnerable Democrats as too liberal for their districts.
    "As Nancy Pelosi continues to pull her smaller and weaker caucus of House Democrats to the far left, we are going to make sure that these vulnerable Democrats are held responsible for their disastrous policies," Martin said.
    But House Democrats dismissed the list, and the Oscars comparison. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Thornton compared the target list to Peter O'Toole, an esteemed actor who has had a record number of Academy Award nominations without a win.
    "I like to call this NRCC list 'The Peter O'Toole: Lots of nominations -- zero wins,'" he said.
    The full list of targeted Democrats and their districts follows:
    Gwen Graham (FL-02)
    Collin Peterson (MN-07)
    Brad Ashford (NE-02)
    Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
    Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
    Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
    Ami Bera (CA-07)
    Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18)
    Rick Nolan (MN-08)
    Scott Peters (CA-52)
    Steve Israel (NY-03)
    John Garamendi (CA-03)
    Elizabeth Esty (CT-05)
    Pete Aguilar (CA-31)
    Annie Kuster (NH-02)
    Julia Brownley (CA-26)
    Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
    Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
    Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03)