Republican and Democrat congressional battle maps shrink

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) bragged about how the GOP candidates were doing in the most critical races, ultimately predicting a Senate majority of ‘over 52’ ​​with some wins deep in the Democratic territory.

Then the Republican National Senate Committee Chairman surprised himself, realizing that it’s still hard to think about Republican victories in blue-leaning states like Colorado and Washington. His committee has yet to put a big infusion of money into an ad campaign in either state.

“You really have to focus on allocating your resources where you get the most out of them. It’s hard work, so you do your best,” Scott told reporters on Thursday.

It’s been one of the key questions in the final five weeks of the midterm elections, as strategists decide to give in to temptation and pour somewhat limited resources into states and districts that look good but represent a political stretch. These seats, both in the Senate and the House, are in territory that is generally uncompetitive and ultimately will not serve as tipping points for winning a majority.

In Senate races, campaign committees from both parties have taken very disciplined approaches, with Republicans needing just one net win to flip the current chamber 50-50.

Since the start of 2021, the NRSC and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee have focused on four seats currently held by Democrats – Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire – and two held by Republicans, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Scott’s initial comments echo other bullish claims by GOP strategists that Tiffany Smiley and Joe O’Dea are poised to defeat Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Michael F. Bennet (Colo.), respectively.

Among Democrats, the Senate campaigns of Reps. Valerie Demings (D-Fla.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) have drawn huge interest from liberal activists and donors online, hoping for victories in two states that stand have distanced themselves from Democrats over the past decade.

But neither the NRSC nor the DSCC launched major ad campaigns in those four states, leaving the airwaves to the candidates themselves and, in some cases, to outside groups who raised big checks from wealthy supporters of those states. long-term candidates.

There is a cold, stubborn reality to these decisions.

Democrats haven’t lost a Senate race in Washington state since 1994, and Democrats have won five of the last six Senate contests in Colorado. Republicans have won four of the last six Senate races in Florida, as well as all five gubernatorial races this century, and Sen. Sherrod Brown is the only Democrat to win a Senate race in Ohio since 1992.

Instead, with just over five weeks to go until Election Day, both committees are still laser-focused on the same battleground states they focused on early last year.

For Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Chairman of the DSCC, that has always been the strategy. In a June 2021 interview, Peters recalled how abandoned he felt for a long stretch of his own re-election in 2020, as Democrats chased victories in Alaska, Kansas, South Carolina and Texas. .

Donald Trump ended up comfortably winning all four states that year, and Republican Senate candidates won each race by more than 10 percentage points.

Peters, who finally saw the Financial Cavalry return to Michigan, picked up a victory by less than two percentage points. So once he took over DSCC, he told everyone that “map expansion” was “not a strategy I feel comfortable with.”

“I want to know,” he said during the interview last year, “where am I really on the brink? Where can I really win?

Democratic strategists believe their focus on the “main four,” as they call their four incumbents in battlefield races, has proven fruitful, as the senses. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) and Maggie Hassan (DN.H.) have moved into steady leads in their runs.

Some Republicans have acknowledged that their pursuit of a Senate majority may simply come down to Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, with the party winning two of those three winners.

Democrats, meanwhile, can’t decide to go all-in in North Carolina, where Cheri Beasley, the state’s first black Supreme Court chief justice, has been extremely close to Rep. Ted Budd (RN.C .) in public and in private. vote.

The Senate Majority, the Democratic-aligned super PAC, has been broadcasting Beasley since late August. The DSCC helped the Beasley campaign, but its publicity unit did not jump to North Carolina with a multi-million dollar campaign.

Veterans of past campaigns know how tough the state is. In 2020, 2016 and 2014, Democrats poured tens of millions into North Carolina, only to lose close races each time, with their candidates never receiving more than 47%. The Democrats have also narrowly lost the last three presidential elections there, never reaching more than 48%.

Last week, Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (NJ), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii) have launched a social media campaign to generate money online from the Beasley campaign coffers.

In an interview Thursday, Murphy said the trio wanted to “bring a little more attention” to North Carolina, but they weren’t “guessing” any strategy from Peters and the party bosses.

In the battle for the House, each side opted for the strategy of expanding the map, drawing some criticism.

Rep. Tom O’Halleran (Arizona), who holds the most Trump-friendly district of any Democratic re-election contender, told his supporters that DCCC strategists are “overstretching their wings.” In a Zoom call first obtained by Punchbowl News, he said the DCCC was directing donors to nearly 80 races, including incumbents and challengers, some of which were unrealistic.

In a brief interview on Friday, O’Halleran touted his own record of winning tough races, noting that other Democrats don’t have such political gravity.

“That’s what the risk is,” he said, adding that he’s “always negotiating” with the DCCC to come and defend it with a big publicity campaign. “I have a proven track record. I’ve only been in more Republican districts, and my track record says I can win.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries (NY), a member of the Democratic leadership, suggested that incumbents like O’Halleran, who is on the DCCC’s “frontline” campaign, deserve first preference in ad campaigns.

“This is a collective effort due to the fragile nature of our democracy, but first among equals should continue to be our vulnerable frontline members,” Jeffries said.

But the difficult political environment has forced the DCCC’s hand to try to find other seats that might seem like a reach to offset expected losses, he said. “The redistricting and retirements have created an expanded battlefield that forces us to go to other districts.”

Republicans have their own political reach to bet on, with an initial target slate of nearly 75 Democratic seats – two-thirds of them coming from districts President Biden won by more than five percentage points there. two years old.

Throughout the summer, the political winds for Republicans shifted, or at least stagnated, after the Supreme Court’s unpopular ruling on abortion rights and the overturning of Roe vs. Wadefalling gas prices and a string of legislative victories for Biden.

Special elections for House seats in New York and Alaska in August, which Republicans were expected to win, were instead won by Democrats. Those GOP goals, 31 of which Biden won by more than 10 percentage points, now mostly look like long shots.

Last week, Inside Elections with independent handicapper Nathan Gonzales lowered Republican expectations to a window of eight to 20 seats, enough to win a majority in the House, but perhaps by a single-digit margin.

Ultimately, the true map of Congressional control may be much narrower than some of the bragging on either side.

“Michigan is still Michigan and Alaska is still Alaska,” Murphy said. “These states tend to return to form.”

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