17 November 2018

How Democrats won the House

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The Democrats’ mantra for seizing control of the U.S. House of Representatives took shape within weeks of President Donald Trump’s stunning 2016 White House victory. reports citing Reuters that Democratic strategists wanted to go beyond the traditional strategy of flipping Republican seats in swing districts. Now, they would also compete in more conservative areas, forcing Republicans to burn resources defending seats they considered safe.

It meant rolling the dice, gambling that a polarizing president would drive independent and moderate Republican voters away from his party’s candidates, gambling that Democrats would remain energized by antipathy towards him, gambling that history and a political map that had Republicans on the defensive would work in their favor.

In the fight for the House, Democrats were “starting the 2018 election cycle on offense,” Dan Sena, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, wrote in a memo assessing the party’s chances days after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

On Tuesday night, the Democrats’ bets paid off with a projected win of at least 30 new seats, which would be seven more than the 23 needed to secure their first House majority since 2011.

“We owned the ground,” Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi said as the takeover became clear. She credited the win to the party’s “dynamic, diverse and incredible candidates.”

Reuters reporters visited more than a dozen battleground House districts and interviewed candidates, campaign officials, strategists and voters to learn how Democrats laid the groundwork to capture the chamber. They also analyzed historical election trends and data from Reuters polling partner Ipsos.

In his memo, Sena offered an initial list of 59 Republican-held seats deemed flippable by the DCCC, the party organization that oversees House races. Democrats needed to take just over a third of them, an ambitious goal, but not unprecedented. Republicans would be defending dozens of districts where Trump either lost or won narrowly.

2018.11.07 / 23:59
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