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Ousted Republicans plot rematches as impeachment revs up



Still, Trump holds the grip over the Republican base that seems unshakable, even amid the ongoing investigation into alleged efforts by the president to withhold military aid unless Ukraine publicly investigates his political rivals.

Trump's most ardent supporters have already fled organizing in Brindisi's district, more than a year out of the next election. Pro-Trump groups staged protests outside the Freshman Democrat office and at some of his public events – including a town hall here in October – to rally local support in New York's 22nd Congressional District.

Many of those who have been picked, including Mount Vernon, N.Y. resident Gilda Ward, focused squarely on Democrats' impeachment push. And it matters to them that Brindisi, one of the most vulnerable freshmen, remains one of seven holdouts in his caucus who oppose the impeachment inquiry.

If he did come out in favor, Ward predicts, “It would be a death knell.”

“I am totally opposed to any kind of impeachment,” she said in an interview after attending a Brindisi town hall. "It really bothers me, and it bothers many of us who voted for Trump."

Tenney ̵

1; an enthusiastic Trump supporter who appeared alongside the president and his family at campaign events in 2018 – plans to once again embrace the president. The former congresswoman said that since announcing her campaign in late September, she has gotten calls from Republican friends who say Trump is happy she is running again.

Brindisi's campaign eager to zero in on his House opponent and avoid presidential politics.

"This district has a long turned page on Claudia Tenney, who delivered late-night TV more than she has ever done in our district," said Luke Jackson, a Brindisi campaign spokesperson.

Republicans are betting that if Trump remains popular with the GOP base, he could significantly ramp up the turnout – clawing back seats that were lost in the 2018 wipeout.

That includes the district where Tenney and Brindisi will battle it out next year. Trump won nearly 160,000 votes in the district in 2016. Turnout plummeted two years later when Tenney got less than 124,000 votes.

GOP campaign operatives are looking at the same math for Trump-backed districts across the country that are now held by Democrats.

Young said in an interview he was working to find Trump voters who stayed home in 2018 through a "deep data dive" as he plans his rematch against Axne. He added that he senses energy from voters in his Des Moines-based district that are frustrated by Democrats' "obsession with trying to remove the president."

Trump won nearly 193,000 votes in Iowa's 3rd District in 2016. Young won just under 168,000 when he lost to Axne by 2 points two years later. Activists on both sides are motivated, Young said, but he argued Democrats neared their high-water mark in 2018. Axne came close to matching Hillary Clinton's 2016 vote total but Young won far fewer votes than Trump.

“In November 2018, the Democrats had a high voter turnout, almost presidential levels,” Young said. “I think to some extent they may have peaked or are getting close to peaking, but Republicans have much more room to grow.”

In the midterms, the numbers of Democratic candidates outperformed Clinton in their districts. But it's not clear if they reach those margins because Trump voters stayed home. Those candidates likely owe their victories in part to two other factors: their ability to persuade Trump voters to back a Democrat for Congress as well as their skill at turning out Democratic voters who typically sit out the midterms.

Rob Simms, a top strategist for Handel, who is seeking a rematch with McBath in suburban Atlanta, blames her loss on high Democratic turnout caused by Democrat Stacey Abram's narrow loss to governor.

"The Democrats, really the Abrams campaign, did a tremendous job in bringing out voters who wouldn't typically vote in an off-year election," said Simms, a former executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Georgia will be more of a battleground in 2020, he said, and Republicans will be ready.

But particularly in suburban districts with highly-educated voters like Georgia's 6th, the momentum is moving away from the GOP and there may be large chunk of persuadable voters up for grabs. Mitt Romney won the seat by 24 points in 2012 but Trump carried it by 1 point.

Fundraising appears to be an early advantage for McBath, too. The Georgia Democrat outraged Handel nearly 2 to 1 in the last quarter, and has a $ 1.3 million fundraising war chest, compared to Handel's roughly $ 630,000. Handel also has a clear GOP primary before she can challenge McBath again.

Meanwhile, few ousted GOP lawmakers seem eager to try again in districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. (Former California Republican David Valadao is a rare exception, as he tries to reclaim his Central Valley-based district that Trump lost by 15 points.)

Two Republicans who once represented suburban districts are running again in different, more GOP-friendly spots, an indication that they still view the climate as unfavorable in their old seats.

The Republican Pete Sessions that has lost the Dallas-area district are now running 100 miles south in Waco. And Darrell Issa, who retired in 2018 from a Clinton-won seat, is running in the San Diego district held by an embattled GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter.

Still, Republican strategists see a path back to the House Majority through the 31 Democratic-held seats that Trump won in 2016.

"The dynamics in the '20 are going to be much different," Simms said of the GOP chances and suburban Georgia. “We have an incumbent president. We have an incumbent senator who's going to be on the top of the ticket. Their campaigns are already organized and functioning and working in the state today. ”


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