With public polls showing Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, ahead nationally by double digits – and even leading Trump in red states such as Texas, Arizona and North Carolina – Democrats feel increasingly confident that they will be able to expand their majority in the House.
Republicans would need a net gain of 20 seats to win back the House. Earlier in the election cycle, GOP operatives argued that this was doable because Democrats must defend 31 House seats in districts that Trump carried in 2016. Indeed, several first-term Democratic members who won in ruby-red areas during the 2018 midterms face difficult contests, and a few are expected to lose. But the national environment has helped shore up Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hold on her gavel.
Democrats say Trump’s botched handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the national reckoning on race since George Floyd was killed on Memorial Day have helped to put new pick-up opportunities on the map, especially in suburban areas.
“We took back the House going on offense in the suburbs. We started the cycle looking to shore up the districts that we won in 2018. And now we are looking very aggressively, further and further, into the suburbs,” said Guinn. “Where Trump’s numbers are faltering the most is in the suburbs, and that has a pretty direct correlation to where we are seeing increasing opportunity. A lot of the seats that we’ve worked really hard to put in play are being impacted by Trump’s numbers. The revolt of the suburbs is very real. Texas is a case study or a microcosm of it, but it’s what we’re seeing all across the country, including in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Phoenix.”
Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), the chair of the DCCC, credited early investments and preparation, including recruiting high-quality candidates, as much as the national environment, for positioning Democrats to gain seats. “We’ve always had a plan, no matter what Trump’s numbers were or no matter who ended up being our nominee, but you capitalize on every opportunity that may present itself, and in this case, we’re uniquely suited to put seats all over the country in play because of Trump’s numbers going down,” Bustos said in an interview. “Early on, we felt confident about being able to hang on to our majority. But growing our majority by any decent number, we thought that was going to be pretty hard. When you flip 40 seats in the previous cycle, you kind of think, well, what else is out there?
“These seats are in play because we put them in play,” she added. “We’re in a position where we’ve got the right people, we’ve got the right message and we will have the resources to make sure that people know that.”
Guinn and Bustos provided The Daily 202 a first look at a five-page memo outlining their view of the congressional battlefield, and I spoke with both by phone over the weekend. The memo includes some other internal polling numbers that show Democratic candidates either leading, tied or within the margin of error in 13 GOP-held districts from Michigan, Minnesota and Montana to Nebraska, New Jersey and New York. (Read the memo here.)
The committee says it has already invested in 73 districts this year, with a staff of 325 spread across 20 states. The DCCC currently plans to target 47 GOP-held districts. The committee has named 30 candidates in those places to its Red to Blue program, which gives them access to more donors and extra assistance from the national party. Of them, 26 are women and 12 are members of minority groups. The DCCC said 24 of the 30 outraised their GOP rivals in the second quarter, and 14 had more cash on hand than their opponents.
GOP operatives involved in House races say the presidential race will definitely tighten, and many of the members who prevailed in 2018 now have records to attack that they did not two years ago. Republicans also note that, even if Trump does not recover, several Democratic incumbents are still running in places that the president could win by double digits, such as Reps. Kendra Horn in Oklahoma, Anthony Brindisi in New York, Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico and Collin Peterson in Minnesota.
“Over the next 100 days House Democrats are going to find voters want no part of their radical agenda that has focused on raising taxes, backing government-run health care and standing with dangerous criminals instead of law enforcement,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Michael McAdams.
The national climate has improved markedly for Democrats since the start of the year. At the beginning of March, during the brief moment when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) looked like he might actually win the Democratic nomination, there was widespread establishment concern that he could cost the party seats in the suburbs of places like Houston. In December, many Democrats representing districts carried by Trump were nervous and anxious about voting to impeach the president.
An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll conducted this month showed Democrats leading Republicans on the generic congressional ballot by four points, as Biden led by 11 points nationally.
Democrats see several opportunities in Texas. The DCCC opened an office in the capital of Austin in April 2019. Six GOP incumbents are retiring, and winning open seats is usually easier than defeating a sitting member.
For example, Democrats are targeting a suburban Houston district, which Trump won by eight points in 2016, that is being vacated by retiring GOP Rep. Pete Olson. Their nominee is Sri Preston Kulkarni, a former diplomat. Democrats also feel confident they will pick up the border district represented by retiring Republican Rep. Will Hurd, where Gina Ortiz Jones, who lost last time by less than one point in 2018, is running again. And they are targeting an open seat being vacated by GOP Rep. Kenny Marchant in the suburbs between Fort Worth and Dallas, as well as those held by Reps. Michael McCaul and John Carter, though both of those are more of a stretch. Democrats are also high on Wendy Davis, who ran for Texas governor in 2014 and is challenging GOP Rep. Chip Roy in the suburbs of San Antonio and Austin.
House Democratic operatives predict that health care will again be the top issue, which worked well for them in 2018. They believe Trump’s support for a lawsuit led by the state of Texas to throw out the Affordable Care Act will work to their advantage. The Trump administration argued in a court filing last month that anyone who voted for the 2017 tax bill did so with the intention of getting rid of the ACA.
“Democrats have become the party of health care at a time where that is the number one issue, at a time we’re in the middle of a pandemic and at a time where you’ve got the president of the United States talking about ingesting bleach,” said Bustos. “There could not be a clearer contrast on the biggest, most important issue. House Republicans have been some of the most irresponsible voices during this crisis, and they will own that record.”
House Democrats have a massive fundraising advantage. The front-line Democrats raised more than $35 million in the second quarter and finished June with more than $126 million cash on hand. According to the DCCC, all the Republican candidates running against them raised about $18 million and had $25 million cash on hand. Bustos and Guinn said this fundraising advantage allows vulnerable first-termers like Brindisi and Reps. Max Rose in New York and Joe Cunningham in South Carolina to run commercials aimed at increasing their favorability before an onslaught of GOP attack ads can define them. The Democratic campaign committee also has $94 million on hand while the GOP has $61 million — a $33 million cash advantage.
Senior House Republicans have been pleading with the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign to provide financial help as Democrats vastly outraise the GOP, but top campaign officials are so far declining to commit. “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has been prodding the RNC to write a check to the National Republican Congressional Committee — a request he has made multiple times. McCarthy specifically has asked Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to make a financial commitment to the House GOP,” Rachael Bade, Josh Dawsey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee reported on Saturday. “But Kushner, who oversees such decisions and has a greater say than RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, has refused thus far, the officials say. While the Trump campaign and the RNC have brought in record amounts of money, some Trump officials see donating to the House as a wasteful investment as the GOP’s chances of reclaiming the majority sharply deteriorate. …
“Some Republicans have speculated that Trump officials are trying to use the money as leverage to ensure Republicans stick with the president. Privately, GOP lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol have griped about Trump’s handling of the pandemic and penchant for stirring up other controversies, including his recent defense of Confederate statues. By holding the money up, Trump officials can ensure loyalty, said these Republicans, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.”
Bustos and Guinn said adapting to run a campaign during a pandemic remains the biggest challenge facing candidates and committees. The national party has deployed “Mobilization Directors” to more than 30 districts, earlier than originally planned, with an emphasis on getting volunteers to engage digitally. The DCCC launched a “Virtual Action Center” in May aimed at making it easier for grass-roots volunteers to engage in campaigns. By their count, more than 50,000 people have used the new portal to volunteer, including about 22,000 individual volunteers who signed up for 489 virtual campaign events last month alone.
Bustos represents one of the 31 districts held by Democrats that Trump carried last time. Barack Obama carried her downstate Illinois district twice, but Trump won it by 0.7 percentage points. She does not think he will carry it again this time, and her seat is considered safe. “I always talk to members or candidates about running your office or running your campaign like you’re the mayor of the district, and what I mean by that is there’s no issue too small,” she said. “They all get that.”
Senate Republicans will propose cutting weekly emergency unemployment benefits from $600 to $200.
“Senate Republicans want to reduce the $600 payment to $200 until states can implement a new approach that would pay workers 70 percent of the income they collected before they lost their jobs. The states are supposed to phase in the new formula within two months,” Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Seung Min Kim report. “The legislation is expected to include a new round of $1,200 checks to individual Americans, an extension of unemployment benefits at a reduced level, billions of dollars for schools with some of the money aimed at helping classrooms reopen, and a five-year liability shield for businesses, health care providers and others. The legislation also includes at least $100 billion more for the small-business Paycheck Protection Program and is expected to extend a limited moratorium on evictions. It does not contain any new money for state and local governments – a key Democratic demand – but instead gives state and local leaders additional flexibility in spending the $150 billion approved in the Cares Act in March.”
Trump’s national security adviser tested positive.
Robert C. O’Brien is the highest-ranking Trump administration official known to have tested positive for the virus. “He has mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site,” the White House said in a statement this morning. “There is no risk of exposure to the President or the Vice President. The work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted.” (John Wagner)
Trump started to get more involved when he was told his supporters were suffering.
“People close to Trump, many speaking anonymously to share candid discussions and impressions, say the president’s inability to wholly address the crisis is due to his almost pathological unwillingness to admit error; a positive feedback loop of overly rosy assessments and data from advisers and Fox News; and a penchant for magical thinking that prevented him from fully engaging with the pandemic,” Ashley Parker and Phil Rucker report. “In the past couple of weeks, senior advisers began presenting Trump with maps and data showing spikes in coronavirus cases among ‘our people’ in Republican states, a senior administration official said. They also shared projections predicting that virus surges could soon hit politically important states in the Midwest — including Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the official said. This new approach seemed to resonate, as he hewed closely to pre-scripted remarks in a trio of coronavirus briefings last week. …
“Some close to the president say that when Trump claims, as he did twice last week, that the virus will simply ‘disappear,’ there is a part of him that actually believes that assessment, making him more reluctant to take the practical steps required to combat the pandemic. … Trump also maintained such a sense of grievance — about how the virus was personally impacting him, his presidency and his reelection prospects — that aides recount spending valuable time listening to his gripes, rather than focusing on crafting a national strategy to combat the pandemic.”
- Chief correspondent Dan Balz: “America’s global standing is at a low point. The pandemic made it worse. Under Trump, the United States retreats from collaborative leadership at a time of global crisis.”
- Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt: “In just one month, Trump commits a whole new set of potentially impeachable offenses.”
Seven-day averages for new cases hit fresh highs in more than a dozen states.
“The United States tallied just shy of 1,000 coronavirus-related daily deaths on Saturday after a four-day streak of four-digit death tolls, the worst accounting of human loss from the virus since late May,” Meryl Kornfield and Marisa Iati report. “The country reported 59,737 new infections and 566 additional deaths as of Sunday evening, resulting in a seven-day average of infections that was slightly lower than Saturday’s and an average of deaths that was a little bit higher. The world surpassed 16 million confirmed cases over the weekend and reached at least 641,000 coronavirus-related deaths. The United States accounts for about one-fourth of the reported infections and one-fifth of the death toll.
“As of Sunday evening, the seven-day averages for new cases hit fresh highs in several states, including Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Nevada, Texas and South Carolina set records for their seven-day averages of daily deaths, and Mississippi and North Carolina tied their previous highs. … Florida’s average number of deaths rose for the third straight day. The state surpassed New York in total confirmed cases, as Florida hit 414,511 on Saturday, with its health department reporting 12,180 new infections. Only California, with double the population of the Sunshine State, has more cases than Florida.”
- For Guatemalans in Florida, essential work has led to a coronavirus outbreak. Tens of thousands of immigrant laborers have enabled one Florida construction boom after another. Asked to work through the pandemic, they’re now among the hardest-hit communities in the hard-hit state. (Kevin Sieff)
- About 4,000 federal employees are seeking disability compensation on grounds that they contracted the coronavirus at work, while survivors of 60 deceased employees are seeking death benefits for the same reason. The total number of claims is expected to increase to 6,000 within weeks, according to a new report by the Labor Department’s inspector general. (Eric Yoder)
- Debbie Birx, the coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, called on several states to close down bars and limit the size of gatherings. Birx said Kentucky is one of several “where we have concerns about rising test positivity rates and the rising number of cases.” Others include Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia. While the most serious outbreaks remain concentrated in places such as Arizona, Texas, Florida and Georgia, Birx said, “we can see what’s happening in the South moving North.” (WKYT)
- Adm. Brett Giroir, the administration’s testing coordinator, blamed “large commercial labs that perform about half the testing in our country” for the long turnaround times in getting results. “We are never going to be happy with testing until we get turnaround times within 24 hours,” Giroir said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
- States with stricter covid-19 restrictions watch lax neighbors warily, knowing the virus does not respect borders. (Karin Brulliard and Rachel Weiner)
- At least 143,000 people have now died in the United States.
As many as a dozen players and coaches for the Marlins have tested positive.
“Less than a week in, the 2020 Major League Baseball season has already reached its first crisis point, with the Miami Marlins stuck in Philadelphia and forced to postpone their home opener in Miami on Monday night after as many as a dozen players and coaches tested positive for the coronavirus,” Dave Sheinin reports. “The outbreak potentially has far-reaching consequences beyond the Marlins — who would have hosted the Baltimore Orioles at Marlins Park on Monday night — as MLB also postponed Monday night’s scheduled game between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees in Philadelphia. The Phillies hosted the Marlins for three games this weekend, and the Yankees would be occupying the same visitors’ clubhouse the Marlins just departed.
“The Marlins and Phillies were undergoing additional coronavirus testing Monday, as the league contemplates its next moves. Both teams’ games for Tuesday night, the Marlins hosting the Orioles and the Phillies hosting the Yankees, remain on the schedule for now. The league has made no formal indication of what it would take to halt the 2020 season, with the ultimate decision resting with Commissioner Rob Manfred.”
As public schools go all-virtual for fall, parents looks to private schools that say they’ll open campuses.
“While most of the Washington region’s public school districts say their campuses will remain closed for the start of the fall semester, many private schools — which can charge more than $45,000 a year in tuition and fees — are still planning to bring students into classrooms for at least part of the week,” Perry Stein reports. “It’s a situation that could exacerbate existing inequalities, with wealthier students attending classes in person at private schools, and everyone else using public schools’ distance learning, which left many students behind in their academics. The fact that these private schools may offer some in-class instruction has fueled an uptick in enrollment inquiries from families who can afford to make the switch. … Private schools are better equipped for in-person learning. Their campuses are typically bigger and class sizes were already smaller — sometimes just 12 students in a class — before the pandemic, allowing students to better keep their distance during the school day.”
- In-person orientation at Missouri State University has been canceled because too many tour guides attended a mask-free gathering and are now being quarantined. (Ozarks Independent)
Coronavirus vaccine researchers face a challenge convincing blacks and Hispanics to join trials.
“A vaccine must work for everyone — young and old; black, brown and white. To prove that it does, many of the 30,000 volunteers for each trial must come from diverse communities. It’s a scientific necessity, but also a moral imperative, as younger people of color die of coronavirus at twice the rate of white people, and black, Hispanic and Native Americans are hospitalized at four to five times the rate of white people in the same age groups. ‘If this is a vaccine trial that enrolls a bunch of 20-somethings or white college graduates, it will not give us the information we need,’ Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview,” Carolyn Johnson reports.
“Unethical research abuses of black and brown communities, including the Tuskegee experiments that withheld syphilis treatments from African Americans and Guatemalan experiments that deliberately infected prisoners with sexually transmitted diseases, have become cultural touchstones for many people of color, sowing deep distrust of medical authorities. That mistrust — coupled with unequal access to health care, information barriers and racial bias — means they are underrepresented in research trials. … In normal times, it can take years of planning to create trials with representation from minority communities, a job that often comes down to human interaction and time. That task is all the more complicated now, with face-to-face interactions limited by the pandemic, community gatherings presenting a risk for virus spread and a rush to recruit. And it’s happening against the backdrop of a nation grappling with systemic racism.”
Colombian guerrillas are using coronavirus curfews to expand their control. Violators have been killed.
“Armed groups in this violence-fraught nation of 50 million are imposing new levels of control during the coronavirus outbreak, and enforcing some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world — with harsh penalties for violators. In the port city of Tumaco, a narco-trafficking hub in the Colombian southwest, guerrillas posted pamphlets declaring all curfew violators ‘military targets.’ In a warning to all, a medical transport responding to a call after curfew was torched in early May, its driver and patient killed,” Megan Janetsky and Anthony Faiola report. “Human rights groups, community leaders and government officials say a toxic slate of leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug cartels are using the outbreak to consolidate control over parts of a country still reeling from the aftermath of five decades of armed conflict. The increasingly violent competition shows the power of the pandemic to deepen preexisting societal challenges and loosen the grip of government in fragile states.”
Sadly, this is a global trend: “The Taliban in Afghanistan, Comando Vermehlo in Rio and MS-13 in El Salvador, among others, have imposed their own curfews and, in some instances, distributed food, masks and disinfectant in areas they control. But the Colombian groups have distinguished themselves in the level of violence they’re applying to enforcement. Observers fear they’re accelerating an already dangerous drift away from the 2016 peace accord that ended the 52-year conflict between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or the FARC.”
North Korea disclosed it may have its first coronavirus case, officially.
“North Korea locked down the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea after finding what could be the country’s first official coronavirus case there, state media reported Sunday,” per Min Joo Kim. “If confirmed, he or she would be North Korea’s first official coronavirus patient in a country that has remained ‘virus-free,’ according to Pyongyang authorities. … North Korean leader Kim Jong Un convened a Politburo meeting Saturday … A coronavirus outbreak would pose a significant threat to North Korea’s limited health system, which lacks basic protective equipment and medical supplies. The isolated country, mindful of the threat, further sealed itself off from the outside world as the novel coronavirus spread to areas near its border with China. As early as January, North Korea shut down cross-border travel with China and Russia, although doing so severely limits its business with those countries. It has restricted domestic travel and placed diplomats and foreigners under effective house arrest.”
- Hong Kong authorities will ban public gatherings of more than two people, suspend all dining-in and mandate masks in public places. “In yet another example of how covid-19 and accompanying social distancing rules are roaring back in Asia, Vietnam officials are evacuating some 80,000 tourists from the coastal city of Danang, after the city recorded three infections there,” Shibani Mahtani reports.
- The second-most populous state in Australia, Victoria, recorded its largest single-day increase in new cases, adding 532 to its total of more than 8,000 cases on Monday. The government may extend a six-week shutdown. (Reuters)
- The Moroccan government is locking down five cities, including Casablanca, because of new outbreaks. People will not be allowed to enter or leave Casablanca, Tangier, Marrakesh, Fez and Meknes. (Reuters)
Quote of the day
Britain launched a public service campaign today urging residents to lose weight to reduce their risk of coronavirus complications. Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed that he has lost 14 pounds since being hospitalized. “I was too fat,” Johnson said in a video.
Protests exploded across the country this weekend.
“Protests in several major cities across the country turned violent this weekend, as weeks of civil unrest and clashes between activists and authorities boiled over, sending thousands of people teeming into public squares demanding racial justice,” Christian Davenport and Gregory Scruggs report. “From Los Angeles to Richmond to Omaha, police and protesters clashed in a tumultuous Saturday night that saw scores arrested after demonstrators took the streets and police in some cities dispersed crowds with tear gas and pepper spray. In Austin, a man was shot and killed in the midst of a downtown rally. In Richmond, a truck was set ablaze outside police headquarters. Outside of Denver, a Jeep sped through a phalanx of people marching down an interstate when a shot was fired, injuring a protester, police said.
“The focal point of the protests continued to be in the Pacific Northwest, where a week of clashes between activists and federal agents in Portland, Ore., pumped new energy into a movement that began after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. In Portland, the authorities declared a riot after protesters breached a fence surrounding the city’s federal courthouse building. … A Marriott hotel in downtown Portland was shut down Sunday morning … after hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside Saturday night because it was believed federal agents were staying there. … In Seattle, police declared a riot … and used pepper spray and flash grenades in an attempt to disperse a crowd of roughly 2,000 people in the Capitol Hill neighborhood marching in the city’s largest Black Lives Matter protest in more than a month.”
- A group of about 30 people protested for 90 minutes on Sunday outside the Alexandria, Va., home of acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf. (Justin George)
Josh Hawley announced an abortion litmus test for Supreme Court nominees.
“Hawley (R-Mo.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that he would not support any nominee for the Supreme Court unless they had publicly stated before their nomination that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established federal protection for abortion, was ‘wrongly decided,” Bob Costa reports. “White House officials and some top Republicans have privately discussed the possibility that Justice Clarence Thomas … could retire. … Hawley said he has spoken to Trump and senior White House officials about his views on the court and a possible vacancy but declined to describe those exchanges.”
Other news that should be on your radar
Hurricane Hanna hammered South Texas, already hit hard by coronavirus, with flooding rains.
“The season’s first Atlantic hurricane made landfall in South Texas on Saturday evening, unleashing strong winds, flooding rainfall, an inundating storm surge and several tornadoes after rapidly intensifying early this weekend. On Sunday evening, Hanna continued its march southwest as a tropical depression, slipping into Mexico while still lashing the Rio Grande Valley with prolific rainfall,” Matthew Cappucci, Jason Samenow and Andrew Freedman report. “Meanwhile, meteorologists are cautiously watching another brewing system in the Atlantic that could become problematic by late in the week. Hanna has unloaded more than 15 inches of rain in parts of South Texas, resulting in serious flash flooding, and totals may exceed 18 inches in some areas before rain ends late Sunday or Monday.”
- Hurricane Douglas is moving perilously close to the shores of Hawaii and may make landfall on Kauai on Monday. Damaging winds, flooding from heavy rains, as well as pounding surf and a coastal storm surge are likely across parts of the island chain. (Ian Livingston, Andrew and Jason)
John Lewis made a final journey through Selma, Ala.
“Fifty-five years ago, Alabama state troopers beat John Lewis and hundreds of protesters as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On Sunday, troopers saluted the late civil rights leader after he made his final journey across the span,” Eric Velasco reports. “The body of the 17-term congressman was carried on a horse-drawn caisson from Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church to the bridge, where rose petals had been scattered. Two horses and a driver led the flag-draped casket, which paused for two minutes at 10:55 a.m. Central time when it reached the top of the bridge above the Alabama River. On the other side, the words of ‘We Shall Overcome’ could be heard as family, hundreds of onlookers and several troopers greeted Lewis. A military honor guard moved the casket from the caisson to a hearse for the trip to Montgomery, where he will lie in state. …
“The ceremony came on the second of six days of tributes to the son of sharecroppers, fighter for civil rights and lawmaker widely hailed as the conscience of Congress. Lewis (D-Ga.) died July 17 at the age of 80 after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer six months earlier. The honors began Saturday in Lewis’s birthplace of Troy, Ala., with prayers, family recollections, songs and a plea to carry on his legacy of fighting for a more just society. It will end Thursday with a service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached. In between, Lewis will lie in state in two state capitols — Montgomery and Atlanta — and in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.”