How The GOP Defied Expectations Down The Ballot

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks about House Republicans and the election on Nov. 12.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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The coronavirus pandemic also made campaigning itself a cultural and tactical issue in competitive races. Many Republicans continued to hold in-person events, rarely wore masks and ran traditional door-knocking campaigns to get out the vote, all things Democrats more often avoided over concerns about public safety.

Republican Beth Van Duyne won an open seat in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs. She credited her ground game with her narrow victory. She told NPR she never saw her Democratic opponent on the campaign trail. «Her point was, she was concerned about COVID. You know what? That’s fine. But in an elected position role, a public servant role, we do not have the luxury of calling it in.» Van Duyne’s was one of six Republican-held suburban Texas seats that Democrats made a play for in 2020; they lost in all of them.

Liesl Hickey and Robert Blizzard are veteran Republican Party strategists who have been conducting a focus group with suburban swing voters across the U.S. since late May. «This doom and gloom that we were going to get slaughtered in the suburbs obviously did not materialize, and this research suggests why,» Blizzard said.

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Hickey said that while Trump fatigue was real for suburban voters, that fatigue did not drag down House Republicans on the ballot who focused on issues and not the president. «A center-right agenda, that’s what suburban voters are looking for, and when we’re on offense on policy, that’s when we win.»

And it’s why House Republicans are celebrating 2020, even though they technically lost. This election didn’t send the party off searching into the political wilderness but, rather, provided what many see as a shorter path back to the majority. «Going into 2022, we have a great opportunity to create a choice between Republican policies and Democrat policies, and that will be a very clear choice as we go into the new year,» Hickey said.

President-elect Joe Biden won a historic victory, but he had no coattails for his party and now he faces an emboldened House Republican minority.


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