Meanwhile, Republicans have been unable to field strong candidates in key districts in Michigan, New York, Wisconsin and Minnesota that the president carried and the start of primary season has left them hamstrung by weak nominees in some Illinois and California targets.
“Flipping the House is unlikely at this point. You never say never, but unlikely,” said former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a moderate who retired in 2018. “While Republicans have more offensive opportunities than Democrats in House races this cycle, Republicans are playing more defense than they’d like given retirements, especially in Texas.”
Republicans thus far are struggling to claw back the seats they lost in the midterms, much of it suburban territory that has moved toward Democrats since the election of President Donald Trump in 2016. Many of the seats where Democrats have fortified their majority are in places like suburban Philadelphia, Detroit and Denver — major presidential battlegrounds.
Among the other roadblocks: Redistricting in North Carolina turned two Republican districts into safe Democratic territory. And at least half a dozen open and GOP-held seats are on track to be highly competitive, diverting precious resources to defense.
“It feels like a status quo year in the House,” Dent said.
Even in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, endangered Democratic incumbents raised exorbitant sums of money in the first three months of the year. Seven of them cleared $1 million.
While incumbents typically have a sizable financial advantage, the Democrats’ lead is particularly stark.
Every one of the 42 members in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s protection program for endangered incumbents had at least $1 million in cash on hand at the start of April, and all but two of them have at least twice as much banked as their opponents. Of their challengers, only 11 had more than $500,000 saved by the end of March.
House GOP leadership began 2020 by warning candidates that they were facing an all-out fundraising crisis — and while they found some bright spots in the first-quarter filings, officials are still sounding alarms.
“We have success stories, but we still have a long way to go,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer said in a statement. “We don’t need to match the Democrats dollar for dollar, but each and every candidate needs to be able look in the mirror and be able to say they are doing all they can to carry their own weight.”
Spotty fundraising is already nudging more than dozen Democratic-held districts to the outer edges of the playing field.
The GOP’s most glaring recruitment hole is in an Upstate New York seat held by Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado that is one of a dozen held by Democrats that Trump won with over 50 percent of the vote in 2016.
Republicans have also struggled in other Trump-won districts. Democratic Rep. Angie Craig has no opponent with more than $100,000 in the bank vying for her suburban Minneapolis seat. None of the candidates running against Democratic Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) has more than $300,000 on hand. And all three seats have crowded primaries.
“They have very few candidates who are reaching the goals that they should be reaching — so they have a map on fire, essentially,” said Abby Curran Horrell, the executive director of House Majority PAC, congressional Democrats’ main outside group. “There’s very few places where things look secure.”