The head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is framing the battle for control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections as a contest between a Democratic Party intent on building things up and a Republican Party intent on blowing things up.
DCCC Chair Sean Maloney told The Washington Times that Democrats are focused on carving out solutions to the nation’s challenges. Republicans, he said, are focused on tearing down legislation and institutions, and trafficking in conspiracy theories and racism along the way.
“We are doing the hard thing,” Mr. Maloney told The Times in an interview. “We are the carpenters of American politics because, you know, any jackass can kick over a barn. It takes a carpenter to build one.”
That message will be tested over the coming months as Democrats seek to buck historical trends suggesting that the GOP is poised to flip control of the lower chamber next year.
Indeed, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his Republican colleagues are bullish about their chances of returning to power.
Polls paint a gloomy picture for Democrats.
President Biden’s approval rating is underwater, and the American public is losing faith in his ability to handle inflation, the economy and the coronavirus.
The signature piece of Mr. Biden’s agenda, the Build Back Better plan, has been derailed on Capitol Hill.
Republicans, meanwhile, lead the generic ballot in congressional races, and appear to have the upper hand in the redistricting process.
A recent analysis by The New York Times found Republicans, through redistricting, have already added enough safe House seats to flip the chamber.
Alarm bells went off in Democratic circles last month after Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. It marked the GOP’s first statewide victory there since 2009, and it came a year after Mr. Biden carried the state by 10 points over then-President Donald Trump.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for House Republicans, responded by expanding its list of targeted House seats to 70 from 57.
“In this environment, no Democrat’s seat is safe and vulnerable House Democrats have a choice to make … retire or lose,” Rep. Tom Emmer, the NRCC chairman, told The Times last month. “We believe that anybody who’s in a seat that Joe Biden might have won by 10 points a year ago, they’re vulnerable. They’re at risk.”
But the DCCC outraised its Republican counterpart last month, pulling in $12.6 million in November, compared with $7.3 million for the NRCC. It left the DCCC with an advantage over the NRCC in cash on hand, $73.8 million to $67 million.
Since the Thanksgiving break, six more House Democrats have announced they will either not seek reelection or will run for another office, increasing the number of Democrats heading for the exits to 23.
Far-left challengers and outside groups, meanwhile, are rallying to send incumbent Democrats packing in primary contests, creating some unwanted headaches for party leaders and renewing concerns that far-left rhetoric and messaging will provide more ammunition for the GOP.
It all puts a spotlight on Mr. Maloney of New York.
The openly gay 55-year-old has been navigating some choppy political waters since taking over the DCCC last year.
Mr. Maloney rubbed some colleagues the wrong way when he lifted a ban, enacted in 2019, on campaigns hiring political consultants who work with candidates that seek to oust sitting Democrats in primary contests.
Politico, meanwhile, reported last week that Democrats from red and purple districts are concerned that Mr. Maloney is moving the DCCC too far to the left — thereby hurting their chances of surviving the midterm elections and the party’s chance of defending the lower chamber.
“This is a real f—-ing problem,” a vulnerable Democrat said in the report.
Mr. Maloney, however, told The Times that Republicans face greater intraparty challenges.
“I think we are a lot better off than the Republicans who have a former president, you know, primarying some of their own members,” he said, noting former President Donald Trump’s targeting of incumbent Republicans.
“You don’t see [former President] Barack Obama out there primarying my members,” he said. “You don’t see the kind of vicious divide where we have voted out of leadership someone the way … they sidelined [Wyoming Rep.] Liz Cheney.”
Given the slim majority in the House, Mr. Maloney said Democrats stuck together to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, and the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.
Mr. Maloney also stressed that a single House Democrat — Rep. Jared Golden of Maine — voted against Mr. Biden’s “Build Back Better” legislation, which has since stalled in the Senate.
Mr. Maloney said there is reason to believe the political environment will improve for Democrats. He said inflation is getting better, the economy is gaining steam, and employment is strong.
He said Democrats also will benefit if Mr. Biden gets the chance to sign the $1.7 trillion “Build Back Better” plan into law.
“It’s huge,” Mr. Malioney said of the plan, which remains a vote shy of passing the U.S. Senate. “We are talking about the most important investments in working and middle-class families in our lifetimes.”
Mr. Maloney said the measure includes a number of items on the party’s wish list, ranging from reducing taxes for middle-class Americans to reducing the cost of prescription drugs and keeping the expanded federal child tax credit on the books.
“These are huge and positive things we are going to do and we need to finish the work and tell people about it,” he said.
Plus, Mr. Maloney said, it provides a clear contrast with Republicans.
“The other side is sitting back with no plan, with no policies and seeking to exploit post-pandemic frustration as a way to get back to power — not to mention asking us to overlook the violent attack on the Capitol and the elements in their own party who are trafficking in dangerous conspiracies theories and the rest,” he said.