AMAC Exclusive – By Shane Harris
Earlier this month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) released its official list of 31 Republican-held seats and 2 open seats that Democrats will be targeting in their 2024 bid to retake the House. The list, which ranges from purple districts to conservative-leaning districts with Republican incumbents perceived as vulnerable, provides valuable early insight into how Democrat strategists are approaching another hotly contested general election cycle.
Recent elections have seen a narrowing of the House map as suburban realignment and redistricting have made for very competitive battles. In 2020, Republican gains left Democrats with just a 4-seat House majority. Last November, Republican ambitions of a “Red Wave” fell flat and left the GOP with a 4-seat majority of their own.
Early lookaheads at 2024 House races from several top analysts predict another close contest that will be decided by just a few seats either way. This means that where each party chooses to spend its fundraising dollars could go a long way toward deciding overall control of the House.
One of the first things that pops out from the DCCC’s list is the number of New York Republicans. In total, the DCCC lists six of the eleven House Republicans from the Empire State on its target list: Nick LaLota (NY-01), George Santos (NY-03), Anthony D’Esposito (NY-04), Mike Lawler (NY-17), Marc Molinaro (NY-19), and Brandon Williams (NY-22).
Last November, these candidates played a pivotal role in securing the majority for the GOP. Of the 16 total House seats that flipped from Democrat to Republican across the entire country, four were in New York—in other words, the entire GOP margin in the House. This number included perhaps the most satisfying victory of the night for the GOP, DCCC Chair Sean Patrick Maloney’s loss to State Assemblyman Mike Lawler.
Following the election, conventional reasoning held that former Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin’s strong challenge to incumbent Kathy Hochul in the governor’s race helped boost other Republicans down-ballot. For this reason, the DCCC is betting that Democrats can retake the four seats they lost by slim margins in 2022 (districts 3, 4, 17, and 19) and pick up NY-22, which incumbent Brandon Williams won 50.7%-49.2%.
Notably, the DCCC has also tagged Zeldin’s old seat (NY-01) as a top pick-up target. Nick LaLota won the open seat 56%-44% in 2022, indicating that Democrats hope they can swing the Long Island-based district at least six points without Zeldin at the top of the ticket.
But this logic might backfire if former President Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president in 2024. Much like Zeldin last year, Trump outperformed expectations in New York in both 2020 and 2016 – primarily by picking up support on Long Island.
The other Democrat-to-Republican flips from 2022 that the DCCC hopes to win back in 2024 are FL-13 (Anna Paulina Luna), CA-13 (John Duarte), IA-03 (Zach Nunn), MI-10 (John James), NJ-07 (Tom Kean Jr.), VA-02 (Jen Kiggans), and WI-03 (Derrick Van Orden).
In three of these races (CA-13, IA-03, and MI-10), the Republican candidate’s margin of victory was less than one percent, giving Democrats reason for hope that they can swing the few votes they need to win back the district.
In NJ-07, VA-02, and WI-03, the Republican margins of victory were 4.6, 4.1, and 4 points, respectively. This provides a good indication that the DCCC roadmap for taking back the House is based on a hope that the national environment will be at least 4-6 points better for Democrats in 2024 than it was in 2022.
That theory holds when applied to the DCCC’s entire list: excluding extremely tight races (where the Republican margin of victory was less than 2 points) the average 2022 margin of victory for the Republican candidates in the 31 seats the DCCC has targeted was 7.3 points.
There are a few outliers on the DCCC’s list who won big in 2022 yet Democrats still hope to take down in 2024. Two are in Florida: Luna, who won Democrat Charlie Crist’s old seat by eight points, and Maria Elvira Salazar, who won by 14.6 points. Again, it seems Democrats are hoping that Republican incumbents in Florida will have a harder time in 2024 than they had in 2022 when Governor Ron DeSantis secured an impressive 20-point victory at the top of the GOP ticket.
But Democrats may run in to the same problem in Florida that they did in New York if Trump is the nominee. The 45th president easily won the Sunshine State in 2020 despite polls showing Biden leading by three points heading into Election Day.
One district on the DCCC’s list that Republicans should keep their eye on is the Colorado 3rd, represented by conservative firebrand Lauren Boebert. Despite her district having a Cook PVI of R+7, making it the most Republican district of any on the list, Boebert won by less than 0.2 percentage points last November – a mere 546 votes – after being targeted by millions of dollars in ads by liberal outside groups. Democrats are sure to double down on their attacks on Boebert in the media and would love nothing more than to install a Democrat in this solidly red seat.
With Election Day 2024 still more than a year and a half away, much can and will change in the national political landscape, and the DCCC will undoubtedly shuffle its list around as campaigns take shape. But if Republicans are going to hold – and hopefully expand – their House majority, knowing which Republicans Democrats are planning to target and, more importantly, how they plan to target them, will be of paramount importance.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_.