Apr 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

House GOP sets its sights on Biden country

Illustration of a giant elephant about to step on a tiny donkey.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

House Republicans are so confident of snagging easy seats en route to regaining the majority this November, their big-spending outside super PAC is now targeting congressional districts President Biden won by as much as 16 points, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: The Consumer Price Index report being issued at 8:30am ET Tuesday is expected to show annual inflation surging to 8.4% in March — the highest rate since December 1981. With Biden’s approval numbers already languishing in the negatives, Republicans are going for the kill.

Why it matters: In targeting seats the president won in 2020 by an average of 8 points, the Congressional Leadership Fund is putting Democrats on notice it plans to play offense in previously safe Democratic districts.

  • The group's offensive play comes after its Democratic counterpart, the House Majority PAC, reserved advertising time in 51 media markets as it prepares to defend districts in many once-safe Democratic regions.
  • The GOP group, which is aligned with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is sitting on a mountain of cash and reported $93.5 million on hand as of the end of March.
  • A CLF endorsement is both a signal it plans to spend serious dollars in a race and a sign to other donors that McCarthy's team likes what it sees in the candidates.

Between the lines: Republicans are pointing to Biden's 69% disapproval rating on inflation, according to a new CBS poll, as one of his key political vulnerabilities.

Details: All but one of the seven new "trailblazer" endorsements are in districts that Biden won by 7 points or more.

Democrats themselves re-drew some of the targeted districts with an eye to shoring up their party's incumbents.

The CLF endorsees:

  • Mayra Flores, a respiratory care practitioner, in Texas' 34th District (Biden +16)
  • Tanya Wheeless, an attorney, in Arizona's 4th District (Biden +10)
  • Marc Molinaro, a county executive, in New York's 19th District (Biden +10)
  • Colin Schmitt, a state assemblymember, in New York's 18th District (Biden +8)
  • April Becker, an attorney, in Nevada's 3rd District (Biden +7)
  • Cassy Garcia, a former staffer for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in the state's 28th District (Biden +7)
  • Jim Bognet, a businessperson, in Pennsylvania's 8th District (Trump +3)

By the numbers: The seven new endorsements in the pro-Biden seats bring the number of districts where CLF plans to engage to 24.

  • The first batch of endorsements included 17 districts, where the average 2020 margin was Trump +1.
  • Of those 17 districts, just three voted for Biden by 8 points or more, and eight voted for Trump.

What they're saying: “Each of these impressive candidates have the strength to expand the map into deep blue, traditionally Democrat-held territory," CLF president Dan Conston said in a statement to Axios.

  • “Biden’s failures have turned stretch seats into real opportunities we can win with the right candidates.”
  • The endorsements "[unlock] additional hard-dollar financial support" for the campaign, the CLF said. That translates to direct contributions, though the endorsements also indicate where the super PAC will target its ad dollars.
  • Abby Horrell, executive director of the Democrats' House Majority PAC, told Axios: “While Democrats get things done ... Republican candidates across the country will continue to obstruct, root against the economy, and vote against affordable insulin. Voters will remember who stands with them come November.”

Go deeper: Molinaro, who is challenging two-term Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), points to rising costs and crime as two central factors driving support for the GOP.

  • "I think that people are frustrated and fearful ... that the policies out of Washington and Albany are making life more expensive, and ... making us less safe," Molinaro said during an interview with Axios. "We hear it everywhere we go."
  • "CLF, what this signals to me and to others, is that NY-19 is quickly emerging as a battleground district and a winnable seat."
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