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Mike Johnson

The decimated Republican majority turns to November

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — The House Republican Conference is in a pretty bad spot right now. Members are heading for the exits and one didn’t even bother to have a conversation with leadership before he did so. Attendance at this week’s retreat is anemic. A senior GOP lawmaker estimated that only about one-third of House Republicans came to the event.

It’s the slimmest GOP majority in decades. There’s a looming deadline next week on complex spending bills that divide the conference. Right-wingers are aggrieved over leadership’s failure to listen to their unrealistic demands. Moderates are signing on to a discharge petition to move a massive foreign aid bill because Speaker Mike Johnson has failed to act on Ukraine and Israel funding.

So when House Republican leadership addressed the media Wednesday evening to kick off the retreat, they focused heavily on the 2024 election. Eager to shift attention from their governing mishaps, senior Republicans touted ambitious plans to grow their House majority.

The GOP theory of the case is dominated by three main pillars: President Joe Biden, immigration and redistricting.

First, Republicans are betting Biden’s unpopularity drags down Democrats in competitive districts. NRCC Chair Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) is intimately familiar with the numbers, citing the president’s 56% national disapproval rating.

If Biden really is that far underwater on Election Day, House Democrats will have to run well ahead of the president in order to take back the majority.

Remember: Democrats drastically overperformed expectations in 2022 when Biden’s approval rating was also low. The difference this time? Biden’s actually on the ballot this year. But so is former President Donald Trump, who can turn out Democratic voters better than anyone in history.

Second, the GOP hopes voters continue to say immigration is their top issue. Polls have shown the public favors their party on immigration and Republicans have been consistently hammering the Biden administration on the U.S.-Mexico border crisis.

Johnson singled out the vote this week on a resolution condemning Biden’s border policies as a preview of campaign messaging. Fourteen Democrats, mostly Frontliners, voted in favor, while 193 Democrats opposed the resolution.

“I think they’re going to regret that in the election cycle because I think the American people are dialed in on this,” Johnson said.

Third, the NRCC is touting the 2024 map. Both Democrats and Republicans agree the redistricting cycle was a wash. Johnson said Republicans are targeting 37 seats in November. They’re practically guaranteed to pick up three seats in North Carolina, offsetting expected losses in New York, Alabama and Louisiana.

A disclaimer: Democrats are incredibly confident they can win back the House. They think the 17 Republicans in districts won by Biden in 2020 are ripe for the picking. And they argue that abortion rights — a winning issue for Democrats — will be top of mind for voters.

What’s on the GOP agenda today: Marc Andreessen will speak about AI. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life President Marjorie Dannenfelser will discuss a “pro-family agenda” and former Secretary of Defense Chris Miller will address national security.

— Max Cohen

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.