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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Democrats are trying to unseat only about half as many Republican House members next year as they did in 2020, trimming their target list from 39 to 21.

Why it matters: The narrowing map — which reflects where Democrats see their best chance of flipping seats — is the latest datapoint showing the challenging political landscape the party faces in the crucial 2022 midterms.

  • The once-a-decade redistricting process, Donald Trump's exit from the White House and a razor-thin House majority that requires more focus on protecting incumbents are among the factors at work.
  • A smaller map makes candidate recruitment even more important.

What they're saying: Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told Axios his party must be "flexible and nimble" and that the districts in play remain subject to change — based on redistricting and the extent of Republican overreach.

  • "What's going to determine the size of the battlefield is how far down these dark paths of racism and denying a woman’s reproductive freedom the Republican Party goes," he said.
  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison told Axios if Dems pass their infrastructure and spending bills: "It’s very simple. Two words: Democrats deliver."

Tom Davis, the former Republican congressman from Virginia who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee through the first midterms under President George W. Bush, said Dems' should focus on protecting the seats they have.

  • "Democrats are on defense, there's no question about that," Davis said. "In 2002, we had a five-seat majority in the House, and I was campaign chairman. I didn't get aggressive, I just wanted to take seats off the table. We ended up picking up eight seats. That ought to be their strategy."
  • "Biden was elected because people didn't want Donald Trump in their living rooms for four more years," Davis said. "But they didn't vote for all this other stuff that's coming with him, and they're gonna react, they're gonna pump the brakes." 

Details: Democrats are targeting Arizona's 2nd (open seat) and 6th districts; California's 21st, 25th, 39th and 48th districts; Florida's 26 and 27th districts; Iowa's 1st and 2nd districts; Indiana's 5th district; Missouri's 2nd district; Nebraska's 2nd district; New York's 2nd, 22nd and 24th districts; Ohio's 1st district; Pennsylvania's 1st and 10th districts; Texas' 23rd and 24th districts; and Utah's 4th district.

Between the lines: Redistricting will make some seats safer for Dems, while pulling others farther from reach.

  • Democrats are already anticipating they won't have to spend as much in places like Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois' 14th District. She won by less than 2 percentage points last time but it will likely become more favorable to Dems after redistricting.
  • But nationally Republicans hold the redistricting edge. Of the 12 states with DCCC target districts, Democrats are only in charge of drawing the new maps in one (New York). Republicans control that process in 8 of the other states, comprising 11 of Dems’ 21 targets.
  • Just last week, a draft map of Indiana, drawn by GOP state lawmakers, showed the state's 5th District — which is on the DCCC's target list — becoming much safer for Republicans.
  • In Texas, where the redistricting process started Monday, the GOP will draw new maps for the state's congressional districts, as well as its state House and Senate districts.

Go deeper

Oct 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democratic retirements spark worry over holding House majority

Expand chart
Data: House Press Gallery; Table: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) is the latest House lawmaker to announce he won't seek re-election next year, bringing the total number of Democratic retirements to 13, compared to nine Republicans.

Why it matters: The increasing number of Democratic retirements — put against the backdrop of President Biden's sagging approval ratings and uncertainty about redistricting — is adding to concerns the party may not be able to keep its slim majority in the House.

Suburban focus in tight Virginia governor’s race

Photo: Getty Images

It’s a week out from Election Day in Virginia, and former governor Terry McAuliffe’s lead in the polls over Republican Glenn Youngkin has tightened.

Why it matters: The race to become Virginia’s next governor holds both local and national implications, from teacher pay to whether Republicans can mount a key win in the post-Trump era.

Texas House probes school library books dealing with race and sexuality

Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Texas state Rep. Matt Krause (R), chair of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, announced Wednesday that he's initiating a probe into schools' library books, according to a letter sent to the state's education agency and other superintendents.

Why it matters: The probe focuses on books that discuss race, sexuality, or "make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex," Krause wrote in the letter.