As President Donald Trump tours the country holding rallies to support his reelection campaign this fall, he often brags about what the political landscape will look like in January 2021.
“95% Approval Rating in the Republican Party,” he tweeted in October 2019. “Thank you! Just won two Congressional Seats in North Carolina, & a Governors runoff in Louisiana, which Republicans should now win! Because of Impeachment Fraud, we will easily take back the House, add in the Senate, & again win Pres!”
Trump is, as is well-known by now, a serial exaggerator. (And far worse.) But his boast about “easily” winning back control of the House his party lost in 2018 looks like one of his bigger fibs.
Here’s why: To win back a congressional majority, you need two things – opportunities and money. And at the moment, House Republicans have precious little of either.
According to Politico’s Jake Sherman, House Republican leaders held an emergency meeting on Capitol Hill Tuesday to address a “full-blown fundraising crisis, which would imperil any chance they have at regaining their majority in 2020.” The numbers are stark: The House Democrats’ campaign arm collected $40 million more than its GOP counterpart in 2019, and Democratic candidates – whether incumbents or challengers – are also outraising their Republican opponents in a number of key swing districts that the minority party needs to win to keep its majority hopes alive.
Then there’s this, from Pew: “It’s early in the 2020 election year, but at least three dozen members of the House of Representatives already have opted out of running for new terms. That’s not far off the average number of retirements, resignations and other voluntary departures for a full election cycle, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.”
Of the 28 members retiring without seeking any other office, Republicans, with 22 retirements, vastly outpace Democrats, with six. (Among those leaving their House seats to run for other offices, the numbers are more mixed: four Republicans and three Democrats.)
Add it up and you get this: not enough opportunities to win back the 20 seats Republicans need for the majority and not enough money to put further seats in play – as of right now, at least.
The end result being that the playing field still favors a Republican pickup in the House, given Democrats’ across-the-board gains in 2018. But the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates only 18 Democratic seats as “toss ups” or worse for the majority party while ranking eight Republican seats that way. That’s simply not enough districts – even if Republicans keep every one of their own seats – to make good on Trump’s boasts.
The Point: We still don’t know what the national political environment will look like in nine months’ time. But if Republicans don’t start solving their money and opportunity problems, the landscape will be the least of their worries.