In our latest subscriber briefing on March 2, Senior Editor David Wasserman provided a deep dive into our 2024 House ratings and discussed both parties' best pickup opportunities.

The recordings of our subscriber briefings are available exclusively for our premium subscribers. Everything said in this briefing is on background only and should not be quoted without the Cook Political Editors' permission.

The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity. 

Amy Walter: [00:00:00] All right, well, welcome everyone to the first of the 2024 briefings for the Cook Political Report and our subscribers, this is exclusive to Cook Political Report subscribers. So we want to thank you for being a part of the Cook Political Report family. And before I turn things over to our National House Editor Dave Wasserman, I want to just do a couple of quick housekeeping things.

First of all, this is off the record. It gives all of us an opportunity to speak about as much as we want to without worrying about having certain words said in exact ways. The second is that we are recording this, but we're not distributing it. The third is that you can ask questions of Dave by doing that [00:01:00] Q and A box, as you're probably all familiar with since Zoom has become part of our lives for these last couple of years. Ask the questions in there and we will get to as many as we possibly can. So again, thank you for joining us and I'm gonna kick it off to Dave Wasserman who's going to give us the lay of the land for the 2024 House. 

David Wasserman: Well, thanks so much, Amy. And I know it's really early, but this is intended to be a curtain raiser on the 2024 House cycle.

I know there are going to be some other elections happening in 2024 that we're going to be paying a lot of attention to, but we'll be checking in periodically on the House throughout the cycle and I really look forward to everyone's questions on whichever races or dynamics you're interested in talking about.

I'll pull up a few slides that I have to share with everyone. And, you know, before we really dive into [00:02:00] 2024, we have to acknowledge that with a razor-thin—that's probably overused, but—a paper-thin margin in the House of Representatives, we've got a legislative minefield ahead of us in 2023 that could have a major impact on which members are better or worse off in their primaries and general elections. And the drama is really going to be in the House legislatively as the backstop on the Biden administration and a narrowly Democratic Senate. And the fact that Republicans are sitting on a 222 to 213 majority explains why speaker Kevin McCarthy has not been able to kick Super Bowl MVP, George Santos, to the curb, with all apologies to Patrick Mahomes. If Republicans were at 232 seats or 242 seats, it would be a much easier decision for Republican leadership [00:03:00] to dispense with the new congressman from New York's third district. But they need every vote that they can get.

It also explains why Speaker McCarthy had to make key concessions to members of the Freedom Caucus and members who were backed by the Club for Growth in their races in order to win the job on the 15th ballot in the first place. There's kind of an old adage that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line. Well this time around at least these past few years, we've seen that kind of turned on its head, where Democrats for over a decade, you know, fell in line behind a leadership team that had been in the House for decades, and fell in line behind someone who had waited 48 years to become president.

And there's still no primary challenge against the incumbent president. Whereas [00:04:00] Republicans, they've had a harder time falling in line. They took 15 ballots to elect a speaker. 

So let's take a look at some of those key concessions that were made. Now just one member can call for a vote to vacate the chair to remove the speaker, whereas in the past it had been a majority of either party that could call for such a vote. Now, McCarthy's allies are not that concerned about this motion to vacate rule change. They believe that no one wants to go through the same process that we did at the beginning of January all over again, and they're probably right.

There was also an agreement to pair a debt ceiling increase with deep federal spending cuts. But just how deep are we talking? Because there are varying demands throughout the spectrum of Republican beliefs in the conference. And the key is really going to be, when I talk to senior Republicans in the house, the key is really going to [00:05:00] be what opening bid or what bill can the House pass in the first place prior to hitting that debt limit in June as a negotiating point? Can Republicans agree in the first place on a starting point? Then McCarthy's superPAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund struck a deal with the Club for Hrowth not to intervene in primaries for safe Republican open seats. Now, McCarthy has been more politically involved in House races than just about any speaker before him. He started out as the Republicans’ recruitment chair in 2009, where they were just gearing up to try and retake the majority a year later. And yet that involvement over the years has been a double-edged sword because he has behind the scenes made moves to purge further right [00:06:00] Republicans who had joined the Freedom Caucus and elect more Main Street Republicans to the House by getting involved either in therecruitment process or the primary phase in a lot of open seat races. It simultaneously led to more of these Republicans who are interested in governing in Washington and acting in a pragmatic way and being leadership allies being elected, but it's also alienated the Freedom Caucus and the Club for Growth. Now, there are ways around this deal. There will be plenty of Republican donors and Super PACs who exist to support more moderate Main Street Republicans in 2024 with tacit blessing from Republican leadership.

So, and by the way, that also frees up McCarthy's Super PAC to focus on general elections, which are going to be quite critical. [00:07:00] But I think the most significant concession that McCarthy made was on the Rules Committee membership. By pledging that three Freedom Caucus members would serve on that body, which is really the traffic cops of House legislation, deciding which amendments come up for debate and come up for a vote in the house on every topic under the sun. And so Chip Roy, Ted Cruz's former Chief of Staff, Thomas Massey from Kentucky, who is one of the more libertarian members of the Freedom Caucus or Ralph Norman from South Carolina. That's effectively a veto power on that committee, which includes nine Republicans and four Democrats.

If those three Freedom Caucus members vote with the four Democrats to block something the leadership wants, a bill would not be able to get out committee. And this is going to affect potentially everything from the debt limit fight [00:08:00] in June to the Farm Bill and government funding, which both expire at the end of September, defense authorization down the line, and which brings up a rare possibility: the speaker’s allies have privately talked about the possibility of a discharge petition. In other words, a coalition of 218 Democrats, or 218 members, that includes Democrats and some moderate Republicans to bypass people like Matt Gates and Lauren Bobert and bring legislation directly to the floor.

Most people who've watched Congress a long time are skeptical that this will actually happen on a major bill, but it's something that that Republican leadership is kind of keeping in their back pocket as an end around if things really come to a head. Now, looking at the landscape of incumbents seeking reelection in 2024, Republicans are [00:09:00] defending 18 districts that Joe Biden carried in 2020, and there are only five Democrats defending seats that Trump carried in 2020. So Democrats' theory of the case is pretty straightforward. You know, they only need five seats to take back the House. And they figure, you know what, if we can hold all of our own seats and just beat five of those Republicans sitting in those Biden districts, then we can win back the majority.

After all, there are five Republicans in Biden seats in California. There are six Republicans in Biden districts in New York. So those are the biggest clusters of those members. And by the way, the Democrats in Trump districts, Mary Peltola in Alaska, Jared Golden in Maine, Marcy Kaptur in Ohio, they did pretty well. They won by relatively large margins in 2022. There's also the fact that these [00:10:00] Republicans in Biden districts have incentive to work across the aisle and avert a catastrophe on the debt limit or have some kind, some kind of bipartisan achievement to point to in running for reelection, which is an asset for the more main street wing of the Republican Party.

But Democrats’ theory of how they're gonna get back into the majority is not as straightforward as this math, in part because history is on Republicans’ side. The House has flipped five times since 1994, but it hasn't flipped control in a presidential cycle since 1952. And the House hasn't flipped to the party holding the White House since 1948, since Harry Truman ran against what he called a “do nothing Republican Congress.”

Consider that in 1996 and 2012, the last two years when Democratic presidents were on [00:11:00] the ballot two years after Republicans took back the House, voters opted to preserve divided government. They reelected those Democrats and also reelected a Republican House, albeit with narrower majorities. Now, of course, Republicans hold just 222 seats, whereas they held 230 heading into ‘96 and 242 heading into 2012, so obviously much less margin for error.

But typically voters are not looking for a lot of change in the House during a presidential cycle, not as much as you might see in a midterm year. There's also the fact that, Republicans have a potentially big insurance policy, and that's the likelihood that they will get to redraw the map in the state of North Carolina prior to 2024. Now North Carolina and Ohio, which I'll get to in a second, are two of the states where Democrats managed to buck the tide and gain House seats in [00:12:00] 2022. In North Carolina, Democrats went from an eight to five deficit to a seven seven tie in the delegation. Why? Because Republicans’ map which sought to elect 11 Republicans out of 14 seats was struck down by state courts. Democrats up until last November controlled the North Carolina Supreme Court.

And so Democrats did, did quite well in North Carolina's races. But at the very same time, Republicans took back a majority on the State Supreme Court. That was really the only backstop against Republicans in the legislature gerrymandering to maximize their congressional seats. And Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, has no veto power over the redistricting process. By law, by state law, North Carolina's congressional map, which was imposed by a court, is only valid for one election cycle. So it needs to be redrawn for [00:13:00] 2024. And there are four Democrats whose districts could just be wiped off the map and replaced with very heavily Republican seats. Those are Don Davis, who represents the historically African American first district in the rural northeastern corner of the state, Kathy Manning in the Greensboro area, Wiley Nickel, who won a very close race in the Raleigh suburbs in the 13th District, and then Jeff Jackson in the 14th District. Let's say Republicans are able to draw a map that eliminates those four Democrats and claims those seats for themselves.

Well, that would almost double the Republican cushion in the House today. Then looking at the state of Ohio, where Republicans currently have a 10 to five lead in House seats, well, Republicans could potentially redraw the map in Ohio as well. Republicans won key State Supreme Court [00:14:00] races in Ohio in 2022.

The Republican legislature had changed the law to elect judicial offices with party labels on the ballot, and so that helped Republicans win those seats. And it could allow for Republicans to target up to three Democratic incumbents. Now, Greg Landsman in the Cincinnati area, I would say is the likeliest of the three to survive.

Republicans might decide to cede that seat since it's been trending towards Democrats rather than trying to take an ax to his district. We'll see. But Marcy Kaptur in, northwestern Ohio and Emilia Sykes in the Akron/Canton area, it would be very easy for Republicans to redraw those seats, to be much redder.

And even though Ohio passed redistricting reform in 2018 via a state constitutional amendment, [00:15:00] the reform process pretty much devolved into a mess. When the legislature failed to pass a map, the State Supreme Court struck down Republicans’ first attempt and then Republicans passed the map that you see on your left by running out the clock. The State Supreme Court invalidated it after it was already in place for the 2022 cycle. So it's possible the new State Supreme Court could simply reverse that decision and let the map stand for one more cycle. But by state law, the map will have to be redrawn by 2026. Also another wrinkle in Ohio is that the State House, even though it's two to one Republican elected a consensus speaker, where essentially a third of the Republicans in the State House sided with all of the Democrats to elect a moderate Republican, [00:16:00] Jason Stevens, as the speaker, and he’s pledged to work with Democrats on congressional maps.

And we don't know what that means yet, but this is not likely to be settled at least until before we get the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Moore v. Harper, which will determine just how much judicial review  state Supreme Courts will have over the redistricting process in the future.

Now, it's no surprise that the House's most vulnerable incumbent is the freshman from New York 3. Now, amid multiple criminal investigations and the fact that 78% of New York's third district voters say he should resign according to the January Sienna college poll, the odds are very, very slim that George Santos will be appearing on a general election ballot next November.

The question is whether a Democrat or Republican will succeed him. Now if [00:17:00] George Santos somehow won renomination, which I don't think will happen, the seat would be almost in the, it would be in the Solid Democrat column. But, the odds are that the Nassau County Republican Party will rally around a consensus pick in next June's primary.

A lot of people are wondering, well, will the investigations into his finances and fraudulent actions result in an early departure from the house or in expulsion? First of all, Republicans are content to let the ethics process play out. They don't want to give up a vote and create a special election in a Democratic-leaning seat.

And the ethics process and federal investigations take an awful long time. We've seen this with other members in legal hot water over the years, so the odds are that his reckoning will be delayed until next year. And in Republicans’ favor, [00:18:00] this really is one of the few places in the country with a functional Republican county party machine.

Of course they did not have time to stop Santos in 2022 because the maps were finalized so late and there were only a couple days to collect petitions to get on the ballot. Santos had already been running. He had been the Republican sacrificial lamb in this seat in 2020. But among the Republican possibilities are state Senator Jack Martins, who's run for Congress a couple times before, former assemblyman Mike LaPetri, and, Republicans’ 2022 Lieutenant Governor nominee Allison Esposito, who performed quite well. She's a former NYPD detective who performed quite well along with Lee Zeldin. And keep in mind that Zeldin actually won this congressional district more handily than Santos did. So the notion that Santos somehow made it to Congress on his own appeal [00:19:00] is quite fantastical.

Now on the Democratic side, the most buzzed about name is the former Democratic member, Tom Suozzi, who gave up this seat last cycle to run a quixotic campaign for governor. But it's also possible some of the candidates from the last cycle in the Democratic primary, nominee Rob Zimmerman, as well as John Cayman, former North Hempstead supervisor, will be in the mix.

The irony here is that in 2020, George Santos actually won 161,931 votes for Congress and lost by 13 points. How bad was Democratic turnout in New York in 2022? Well, George Santos won only 145,000 votes this last cycle, and he won by seven and a half points. So, let's take a look at our ratings in the race for control of the House.

 [00:20:00] And, this is the battlefield that both parties’ chairs, Susan DelBene from Washington, the DCCC chair and Richard Hudson from North Carolina, the NRCC Chair, will be looking at this cycle. Now we have 174 solidly Democratic seats and 192 solidly Republican seats. And the seats you see listed on this chart are everything that's not solid.

 And so in the middle there, we have 21 seats in our tossup column. That includes 12 Democratic seats and nine Republican seats. If you were to push all of the seats that are lean or likely Republican, then Republicans would start out with 212 seats. If you were to push all of the seats that are lean or likely Democrat and merge them with the solid column, then you'd end up with 202 seats. So, [00:21:00] Democrats would need to win 16 of these 21 Toss Ups to win the House majority, whereas Republicans would only need to win six of the 21 Toss Ups to hold their House majority.

So perhaps a slight early edge for Republicans here. But, these are the, these tossups are comprised of the seats that were the closest in 2022. David Schweikert and Juan Ciscomani in Arizona, whose races took weeks to call. Same with John Duarte in California. And the question in those types of districts that have significant non-white populations is, will the electorate in 2024 be a lot more diverse than it was in the midterm? And that is really the chief obstacle to reelection for some of these members, these Republicans in Arizona, California. And Anthony D’Esposito on Long Island, who also represents a seat with a [00:22:00] significant black and Hispanic population.

Tom Kean Jr. in New Jersey, who holds a seat that is trending towards Democrats in the suburbs. Marc Molinaro and Brandon Williams in upstate New York and Lori Chavez-DeRemer in Oregon's fifth, who got elected in a pretty democratic seat, in part because a more progressive activist defeated an incumbent moderate Democrat, Kurt Schrader, in the Democratic primary.

So if Democrats are more united this time, that seat will be a great pickup opportunity for them. Looking at the Democratic Toss Up column, most of the vulnerable Democratic seats are clustered in North Carolina and Ohio, where as I mention, Democrats are at significant redistricting risk of their seats potentially becoming much redder before the next time they're [00:23:00] on the ballot.

But some of the other Democrats who won by very slim margins include Yadira Carveo in Colorado's eighth district. Barb Kirkmeyer, her Republican opponent last cycle is considering whether to run. The open Elissa Slotkin seat in Michigan. She just announced she's running for Senate, and Gabe Vasquez in New Mexico's second district, Southern New Mexico.

That's a seat Democrats gerrymandered to elect a Democrat last cycle. And the odds are that Yvette Harrell, whom Vasquez beat and unseated last cycle, is going to run again. And then we've got two Democrats in Eastern Pennsylvania, Northeastern Pennsylvania, Susan Wild in the Lehigh Valley, and then Matt Cartwright in the Scranton area, who have won their last few elections by the skin of their teeth.

 And in a presidential cycle where you're likely to have more non-college white voters in those districts turn [00:24:00] out, particularly if Donald Trump is on the ballot, that is going to leave them with yet another very competitive race. And Republicans are likely to nominate new candidates in those places after Jim Bognet and Lisa Scheller lost the last two cycles on the Republican side.

And of course the only Republican or only incumbent that we have worse than Toss Up is George Santos currently in Lean Democrat. But if Republicans replace him on the ballot, that seat probably moves back to Toss Up. One last Democrat in the tossup column, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez from Washington's third district, who is the surprise winner of 2022.

 She was the only Democrat to win a seat that was in our lean Republican column. And that's a seat that Trump carried twice. And yet Republicans nominated Joe Kent, a pretty fringe, far right [00:25:00] candidate who had called January 6th rioters political prisoners and called for murder charges against Anthony Fauci. Democrats ran a pretty stealthy campaign, late in that cycle to make clear to voters that Kent was a departure from other Republicans who had run there in the past. And as a result Perez won by less than a point. Now a big question is what type of candidates will Republicans nominate for House?

One of the reasons why Republicans were able to take back the House as opposed to the Senate in 2022 is that Kevin McCarthy led a very disciplined candidate recruitment operation that sought to nominate candidates who were minorities, women, military veterans, in some cases, multiple of those characteristics. And people who were running on their biography,[00:26:00] and running as voters, neighbors rather than rabble rousers who were running to go to war with the other party in Washington. And so it was people like Juan Ciscomani in Tucson, Arizona, the former head of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, an aide to popular former governor Doug Ducey, who managed to win a Biden seat. Or Lori Chavez-DeRemer, a small-town mayor, one of the first Latinas elected from Oregon, or Zach Nunn from suburban Des Moines, an Air Force veteran. Or former Navy helicopter pilot Jen Kiggins, who went back to school to get her nurse practitioner degree and specializes in geriatric psychiatry. These are Republicans who came across really well in there and as kind of normal people, and I [00:27:00] felt like I was watching a split screen last cycle because there were vast differences between the performance of those types of candidates on the left, uh, versus those types of Republicans on the left versus the types of Republicans on the right.

Sarah Palin in Alaska, John Gibbs in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who Democrats in their opposition research found Gibbs's statements from a long time ago that he opposed women's right to vote. That didn't go over too well with women or  voters at large in the Grand Rapids area.

I mentioned Joe Kent from Washington, or J.R. Majewski from Toledo, Ohio, who took a race that should have been winnable for Republicans. Uh, but it turned out that he had exaggerated his military credentials saying he had served in combat in Afghanistan when he had not.[00:28:00] 

And so Republicans, uh, are going to be much more careful in vetting their candidates. But to some extent, these were unintentional nominees. Party leaders did not want them to make it through the primaries, but they still did. So will Republican primary voters place more emphasis on electability than they did last time?

There are also going to be a number of open seats because members of the house unsurprisingly, have higher ambitions. Right now there are five Democratic open seats, three open Republican seats, plus one pending vacancy in Rhode Island's first district. Where, uh, David Cicilline, the incumbent Democrat is resigning. We don't know when that special election will be yet, uh, but I'm willing to bet that, uh, that Democrats nominate a woman in that race. There's actually never been a Democratic woman elected to Congress from Rhode Island. A couple of [00:29:00] possibilities are Helena Buonanno Foulkes who lost the gubernatorial nomination to Governor Dan McKee by a very narrow margin. She has some family ties to Nancy Pelosi who came and campaigned for her in that race last cycle, or Nellie Gorbea, uh, who's McKee's lieutenant governor and, uh, would probably have McKee's support. There are any number of ambitious Providence politicians who would get into that race that is pretty democratic. And if Republicans couldn't win the other Rhode Island seat last cycle with one of their strongest candidates, Allan Fung, it's gonna be very hard for them to pull off this special election in Rhode Island's first district, which is 10 points bluer.

Some of the pen seats that will be highly competitive include Katie Porter's district in Orange County, California. On the Republican side, Scott Baugh, the 2022 [00:30:00] nominee is running again and there's gonna be a very competitive democratic race, uh, for that second slot, uh, that, that second California, uh, runoff slot between. Dave Min, a state senator, is Katie Porter's endorsed candidate. He ran against Porter a couple of cycles ago,  but now they're, they're allies. They were law professors together at UC Irvine. And then Harley Rouda, the former congressman from a lot of the coastal portion of that district who lost his seat in 2020.

In Michigan's seventh district, where Elissa Slotkin is running for Senate, some of the Democrats who are looking at running in include Barb Byrum, who's the Ingham County Clerk and then Andy Schor the mayor of Lansing. It's likely that Lansing Democrats will coalesce behind someone and avoid a bitter primary because. [00:31:00] They all will work together in some capacity. Republicans are likely to stick behind their nominee from last cycle. Tom Barrett, who's an army veteran of Iraq, and if he gets a better fundraising start, he should be better off, especially considering, he wouldn't be running against an incumbent like Slotkin who raised $12 million.

These lists of open seats are going to grow because we have a lot of potentially open seats for folks who are thinking about running for statewide office or retiring. Those include on the Democratic side, a number of members who are over 80 years of age including some of the current and past leadership teams. 

And on the Republican side, Ryan Zinke and Matt Rosendale could also run for Senate against Senator Jon [00:32:00] Tester. Uh, so we'll see.  There are also a couple of republicans in more of the pragmatic wing or governing wing of the party whose primaries are worth watching.

David Wasserman: Now, we don't know who will run against them on the Republican side. But if they break with their party on any of the thorny issues before Congress this year, they could earn a primary challenge from their right. 

Now, one of the ironies in the last cycle was that one of the Republican incumbents who almost got caught napping was Dan Webster from Florida, who used to be one of those rabble-rousers on the right of the conference. He ran against John Boehner for speaker a long time ago. And yet he got a primary challenge from a very pro-Trump provocateur, kind of a shock provocateur, Laura [00:33:00] Loomer, who held him to a, a seven-point win, arguing that Webster was not conservative enough.

Dusty Johnson in South Dakota, who only won his last primary with 59% against a pretty weak candidate. The Chair of Republican Main Street Caucus, French Hill  in Little Rock, Arkansas, who also only won his primary with 59%. Now, Tony Gonzalez, Texas, from the San Antonio area, didn't have a serious primary last cycle, but this week Republicans in his district are holding a vote to censor him over his favor of a gun control bill following the shooting and a same-sex marriage bill. So we'll see if a primary emerges on the right against. Gonzalez, who is the only Republican to vote against the House rules package at the beginning of the Congress. In addition, [00:34:00] uh, Dan Newhouse, who's one of the two pro-impeachment Republicans, still serving in the House, is not entirely out of the woods last cycle. He benefited from a split opposition of more pro-Trump candidates last time around. If conservatives or Trump rally around one candidate, it's possible he could have trouble, even though the top two primary system in Washington state helps him by allowing him to win votes in the primary from independents and Democrats and make it into that top two.

I'm gonna leave it there. I know I hit on a number of specifics, but I look forward to Q&A. So what have we got, Amy? 

Amy Walter: Well, Dave, let's start with one of the questions. One person who is asking about a specific district, this is, uh, [00:35:00] Arizona's first congressional district. I think that is the Schweikert seat. Is that right? Yeah. The Schweikert seat. So talk to us a little bit about that. That's a race that has been close now for the last couple of cycles. 

David Wasserman: That's right. And this is one of Democrats' white whales and Democrats are kind of hitting themselves after each cycle when they haven't spent as much money as they probably could have or early enough in the Phoenix market and then they come up just short against Dave Schweikert. This is a Republican who was reprimanded by the ethics committee and fined for improper spending of his Congressional and campaign funds and Democrats have no shortage of hits to run against. But the, uh, the fact that we've had so many hyper-competitive and expensive [00:36:00] statewide races in Arizona means that Democrats have been reluctant to, to get in early and spend a lot against him. I think that might change this next cycle. We'll see if Jevin Hodge, the Democrat who came within a little more than a point of beating him in 2022, decides to run again. There's going to be a lot of Democratic interest for the open third district in Phoenix of Ruben Gallego who's running for Senate. The Democrats gonna have to choose which district to run in. Uh, but I expect this to be a highly competitive race once again.

Amy Walter: David, I also want to highlight some races that subscribers noted in the email before when we asked which races they would like for you to touch on. Let's talk about a couple of those because, uh, New York, not surprisingly, [00:37:00] getting the most mentions, you talked a lot about the Santos seat, which was the top vote-getter for districts to discuss, but let's talk about two other districts there, the 17th and the 19th. If you could do that.

David Wasserman: Yeah. So, you know, in the 17th district this was, you know, one of, the shockers of the cycle. Now, of course, we, we did move this, this race, uh, involving DCCC, Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney to Toss Up in October. But you know, if you told us at the beginning, uh, of 2022 that, uh, Democrats would hold their losses in the house to single digits, but the chair of the DCCC would lose, and we would've had a really hard time believing that. And yet that's what happened in part because Maloney was running in a district that was about three-quarters new to him after redistricting, and that Maloney had run for New York Attorney General back in 2018 and had been [00:38:00] on the record saying that he absolutely favored ending cash bail and Lawler, uh, Mike Lawler, the Republican assemblyman from Rockland County who ran against him played that on loop and ended up winning this seat by a point. Now in a presidential cycle, the Black share of the vote, which is significant in Rockland County and parts of Westchester, will increase. That demographically makes it harder for Lawler to win.
 But, uh, I'm skeptical that Maloney runs again, and that leaves the question of which Democrat will step in to fill the void. Mondaire Jones represented a lot of this area prior to redistricting. There's also some question as to whether Democrats in New York could revisit the lines before 2024 given some changes on the state's top court, the Court of Appeals, which has been [00:39:00] a thorny issue for Governor Hochul with one of her nominees being held up by the state Senate. So,  there are a lot of dominoes to fall here before we, we know what that matchup will look like. But Lawler is one of Republicans' stronger freshmen. Uh, he has been a key ally of Kevin McCarthy and one of the Republican conferences, early favorites, so he will not lack for money.

In the 19th district, Marc Molinaro to win this seat even after redistricting included none of Duchess County where he was a county executive, I would look for Josh Riley, the Democrat, who came just short to run again. There's a chance that another Democrat who ran the primary might run as well. But, [00:40:00] I wouldn't be as surprised if we saw another close rematch, 

Amy Walter: Dave. Um, I'm gonna, Read this question from, this is an anonymous attendee, but I think about this question a lot. I know you and I have talked about this a lot and it goes like this. How important is the Republican nominee vis-à-vis the congressional map especially in terms of its projected impact on turnout, for instance, is a Trump nomination likely to juice Republican turnout in rural districts versus another nominee juicing it in suburban districts? You and I were just talking about this the other day, the places, especially in 2022, where we saw turnout in some of the suburban swing areas look pretty good for Democrats. But it was [00:41:00] not as strong in some of those other areas for Republicans, especially in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Michigan as I think they assumed it would be in part because some of their voters just didn't turn out in a midterm year that could turn out in a presidential.

David Wasserman: Yeah, it's a great point, and look, I was talking with a Republican strategist, in a senior position the other day who said that the key to their prospects in 2024 house races was nominating someone other than Trump. Maybe, maybe not. I think. You know, it's clearly cut both ways.

Republicans did pretty well in House races in 2020 when Trump was the nominee and turned out among non-college whites. But we also know, he defines the party in many ways. He alienates a number of [00:42:00] independent voters, whom Republicans really struggled with in 2022. So, uh, look, I think there's real upside for Republicans in some of the Midwestern states where, um, where Trump did pretty well in 2016 and 2020, but Republicans didn't do well in 2022, in part because the abortion issue was so prevalent in Michigan, in Kansas, in Pennsylvania, where there were these ferocious fights over the issue in state capitals, and it really dragged down the entire Republican ticket. You look at Tudor Dixon's performance in Michigan, Doug Mastriano’s performance in Pennsylvania, and the Republican share of the vote in many of these congressional races was similar or only maybe a little bit higher, uh, when it should have been closer to the Trump number.

So Republicans are betting that if they can get past the abortion issue, that if it's no longer as much of a flashpoint in 2024, they'll have a better cycle [00:43:00] in those places. Democrats are hoping that higher minority turnout helps them in New York and California. So I think some reversion to the mean should be expected.

Amy Walter: Yeah, that's a very good point.  I also have this theory that part of the challenge, pollsters have had since the era of Trump is that when we see a Republican in a survey, somebody who identifies as a Republican, you don't really know necessarily if that person is more of an establishment Republican, one who may not be a big fan of Donald Trump or if it's, the kind of Republican who is a bigger supporter of Donald Trump.

And I think in 2020 you had pollsters getting the demographics correct in these, in their polls and in their models. But the people who were answering the surveys who said they were [00:44:00] Republican were probably less likely to be Trump supporters than they were to be, you know, people willing to vote for Joe Biden because they didn't, there was stuff they didn't like about Donald Trump.

And I kind of have the feeling, this is what we saw in 2020 as well, is that Republican turnout was pretty good in some of these places. If you just look at the data of people who identified themselves as Republicans or if you look at the national vote where Republicans won the national popular vote, but they weren't necessarily the kind of Republicans that turn out for Donald Trump and they're the kind of Republicans who didn't wanna see Dobbs overturned or didn't like what they saw on January 6th. Things like that. 

So, this question Janet Singer, sort of asks this, um, same turnout question about [00:45:00] districts where the black share of the vote going up and districts where the white non-college share of the vote going up could have an impact.

David Wasserman: Yeah. And that, uh, that list of districts where the increase in the black and Hispanic share could be the most impactful, it starts with California and New York.  And the Central Valley remains a battleground. There are huge differences in Hispanic turnout between midterms and presidential cycles.

So, you know, one of the races Democrats are, are excited about early on is California 27, where, uh, they will have a new candidate against Mike Garcia after, Christy Smith lost that seat to Mike Garcia three times. George Whitesides, who's an aerospace executive has already gotten into that contest.

Former [00:46:00] Assemblyman Adam Gray, uh, could mount another run against John Duarte in the 13th District. Rudy Salas could also run again in the 22nd district. Their bet is simply that with a lot higher Black and Hispanic turnout, the calculation there changes. The same thing with Black turnout in New York 17th and the North Carolina seats, their competitiveness will depend on not only redistricting, but what Black turnout looks like, uh, and you know, we also should not forget that there are some, um, some VRA lawsuits that are pending before the Supreme Court. The conservative nature of the Supreme Court means that maps in Alabama and Louisiana and Georgia are less likely to change than those in North Carolina and Ohio. But there is a chance, depending on how the Supreme Court rules in Merrill v. Milligan.

That those maps could change in Democrats' favor by adding [00:47:00] additional plurality or majority black seats. So a lot of the house's fate is tied up in court. 

Amy Walter: Here's another, uh, question about two Democratic incumbents, both from states that have ranked choice voting Alaska's at large seat and Maine’s second district. The question is whether Peltola from Alaska or Golden in Maine are likely to have different Republican opponents in 2024. And then I'd ask, would that matter given the ranked choice vote in those states? 

David Wasserman: Yeah, I don't think that Bruce Poliquin will run again, um, unless the rank choice rule is settled. But really Golden did not so much need the rank choice provision to win reelection given how. Um, how aggressively he was able to define himself and Poliquin [00:48:00]. Uh, so I think it's really telling, um, as far as how popular both Mary Peltola and Jared Golden have become in their districts, that Republicans are not so much spending their time talking about them and their liabilities, as much as they are talking about reforming or getting rid of ranked-choice voting. And in Alaska, there's already a petition movement underway by Republicans in the state to revert to the old system of closed primaries. Uh, now that ballot initiative would not appear on the ballot until 2024, which means it wouldn't take effect until 2026 at the earliest if it does pass. And so I think  Peltola is the favorite at least, through 2024 but we'll see, uh, whether that law is changed. [00:49:00] And, I have to say that, that Peltola and, and Golden's performances are pretty intimidating to any Republicans who are thinking about running against them. I'm not even sure that afterthe dominant victory. We saw a 10-point win for Peltola, um, that, Nick Begich the non-Palin Republican could beat her in 2024. Uh, but we'll see who runs. 

Amy Walter: Yeah. Um, one question here about George Santos. the question being, how did he run two times and yet none of the information about him came out until after the last election?

David Wasserman: Well, um, if you were a subscriber to the Cook Political Report last cycle, you would've read in [00:50:00] September that, that Republican leadership had massive concerns about his resume and in the words of one of their top strategists would not touch him with a 10-foot pole. They were more concerned about some of the business deals that he said he made that they couldn't find records of, but I don't think either party was truly aware of the exaggerations he'd made about his college or, let alone pet charities. So in 2020 when he ran against Tom Suozzi, he really was a sacrificial lamb. This was not a very competitive district. Suozzi won that race by a dozen points. It wasn't as if Republicans had really targeted the seat. He got lucky in 2022 because there was so much uncertainty over the map in New York, Democrats had passed one map that would have, um, safeguarded that seat, made it [00:51:00] pretty blue. Then it got invalidated by the court of appeals. A special master drew a map that, um, at the last minute just days before the filing deadline made that seat a few points more competitive. And I don't think Democrats anticipated just how, how, how well Lee Zeldin. Uh, could do it in the governor's race. And it was clearly Zeldin's coattails that, uh, that brought Santos across the finish line. So he was in the right place at the right time. Other republican, other Republicans, certain, certainly would've been interested in a seat that was as good of an opportunity as this was. But, uh, the, the, the more credible Republicans in the district and there is a, a significant bench of them, they did not. have the time to gather the petitions to challenge this guy in the primary 

Amy Walter: Right. Timing in politics is one of the most important [00:52:00] things. Gail Chadwick asks about the farm bill and whether or not this could get bipartisan support, you know, given how challenging getting anything with bipartisan support through the House has usually been.

David Wasserman: Yeah. You know the Ag committee in both the House and the Senate is one of the last true bastions of bipartisanship. I think Glenn Thompson, the new chair of the Ag Committee in the House gets along pretty well with just about everyone. David Scott is the ranking member on the Democratic side. But Jim Costa is, I'd say, just as well versed in the farm bill. If not more so. And there are, I think there's broad agreement between senior Republicans and Democrats on keeping key provisions, on SNAP and food stamps, as well as a [00:53:00] conservation title and crop insurance in place. Where this really gets thorny, as I said earlier, is the Rules Committee and the Freedom Caucus will be pushing for major reforms to certain titles of the farm bill if they stick together. And if you don't see a Democrat defect on the Rules Committee and side with kind of the Tom Cole institutionalist wing of the Rules committee, you could end up seeing an extension of the current farm bill for an indefinite period.

So, you know, I'd say there's about a 50-50 chance that a new farm bill gets done in 2023. But I believe it'll eventually get done.

Amy Walter: Thanks Dave. Uh, two more questions and then we will wrap things up. Ellen Wheeler asks why you think Sean Patrick Maloney won't run [00:54:00] again for his House seat?

David Wasserman: I could be wrong. But, you know, Sean Patrick Maloney has put in his time in the House. He was the chair of the DCCC. And actually did fairly well versus the expectations and what the historical patterns would've suggested in terms of Democratic losses. But, you know, he had also made clear his statewide ambitions in the past. I think there are a number of Democrats who are still taking their time to determine what's next for them in their careers. You'll see some Democrats' land administration posts. You'll see others who take on some other kind of political engagement.

I think we'll see Maloney again on a ballot at some point. I'm just not sure it'll be 2024. 

Amy Walter: All right. And final question. You touched on [00:55:00] this a little bit in your overview, but can you talk a little bit about South Carolina, the first district, Nancy Mace and that court case there, and the potential for it being red?

David Wasserman: Yeah. So Democrats believe that their chances of getting changes to the South Carolina map are a bit better than in other southern states. They brought this case under the Equal Protection Clause, and a federal judge ruled that this was a racial gerrymander because Republicans’ map moved 30,000 Black voters from the first congressional district to the sixth congressional district.

This was a predictable play on Republicans’ part all along because the first district, which is that coastal Hilton Head to Charleston seat, it was overpopulated by about 84,000 residents heading into redistricting. Whereas the sixth district, the black majority district, Jim [00:56:00] Clyburn's seat, it was underpopulated.

It's been growing at a slower pace and needed about 80,000 residents. So of course, Republicans moved a bunch of Democrats in the West Ashley section of Charleston into the sixth district and made Nancy Mace’s seat safer. Now the question is if the Supreme Court does not grant a stay, and typically the Supreme Court has stayed these rulings and essentially sided with Republicans, but if they don't, and somehow this map changes, does Mace's seat become genuinely competitive?

More like a 50-50 seat that's purely centered on the Charleston area, or does it become more like it was, which is a Republican-leaning seat? You know, even if it's a highly competitive seat, Mace has put enough distance between herself and the MTGs of the world and taken on her party enough that she still does [00:57:00] have appeal with independent voters and a few Democrats who give her credit.

So, you know, it wouldn't necessarily be the end of her career. If we were talking Katie Arrington or another, you know, more pro-Trump, MAGA Republican, that would be a different story. 

Amy Walter: Dave, thanks so much. Thank you for all the questions. We really appreciate all of those and of course we really appreciate you, our subscribers.

We are going to be doing a number of these virtual briefings as we did in the last cycle. So make sure to look out in your inboxes and in our newsletter for updates on when our next briefings will be. We will be doing one at the end of March, March 31st, with National Journal. That will also be a virtual event, which you will have access to as a Cook Political Report subscriber.

Uh, I just, one more plugin for a new product called The [00:58:00] Odd Years. It's our new podcast interview program. We are going, we just started this. We've had two episodes thus far you can expect to hear from all of us, as well as some really interesting voices in politics. We may not be in an in-year, we're in the quote-unquote odd year, right? The non-even numbered part of the cycle. But there's still a lot going on that we know will have an impact on the upcoming election, and that's what we will be talking about and delving into in this new podcast. So, again, you can go download it yourself from your favorite place that you listen to podcasts. You can also do this through our website. Thank you so very much and we look forward to doing another virtual [00:59:00] briefing with you all very soon. Have a good rest of your day. 

David Wasserman: Thanks, everyone.

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