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Analysis: Candidate gaffes erode House GOP’s strong position to win majority

SSome clumsy Republican House candidates are not helping their party’s cause to win a House majority on Nov. 8.

House Republicans are also well positioned to claim a majority in the midterm elections. Democratic President Joe Biden’s approval ratings are consistently low. Four-decade high inflation continues to pinch consumers, and the Federal Reserve’s steady interest rate hikes are driving up borrowing costs, the cost of mortgages and a range of other expenses for the public.

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The House math also works in favor of House Republicans. The party needs just five seats in the 435-member chamber to win its first majority since the 2018 midterm elections, in which GOP candidates were largely swept away by the continued unpopularity of former President Donald Trump. The party out of power in the White House and Congress almost always wins seats in midterm elections. (Democrats hold the White House, House of Representatives and Senate.)

But all of that only matters if the Republican candidates can take advantage of these circumstances and win in the fall. It’s a prospect that in many cases is far from certain due to the frequent self-inflicted wounds of GOP hopefuls.

The situation is most acute in Ohio’s 9th congressional district, based in the Toledo area and northwest Ohio. It’s one of 15 new House districts in Ohio drawn by Republicans in the state and, in this case, is set to unseat Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur from office.

Republican candidate, Trump-backed MAGA activist JR Majewski lied about his resume, saying he was deployed to Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported. The stories noted that public records indicated that Majewski, an Air Force veteran in 2002, served a six-month stint to help load planes at an air base in Qatar in the Persian Gulf.

Less than a day after Majewski’s revelations, the House Republicans’ campaign arm, the Congressional Republican National Committee, had let go of the candidate. The campaign team dropped a nearly $1 million ad buy it had booked on his behalf. The action was an admission, except in words, that Republicans were effectively walking away from a seat that had been seen since the start of the 2022 campaign cycle as a top Democratic target.

Kaptur was first elected to the House in 1982 and is now the longest-serving lawmaker in either house of Congress. Voters in the 9th District entering 2020 would have backed Trump over Biden by 50.6% to 47.7%. For Kaptur, that’s a huge drop from the seat she currently holds, also the 9th district, in the northern part of Ohio, which sits along the Michigan state line and shares a maritime border with Ontario, Canada, via Lake Erie. There, Biden would have crushed Trump, 58.8% to 39.7%.

Certainly, House Republicans are in the driver’s seat in their quest to win a majority, less than seven weeks from Election Day. After all, according to Bake the political reportRepublicans only need to win six of the 31 House seats the election handicapper deems toss to secure a majority.

According to this analysis, at least 212 seats in the House are likely to lean Republican, with about 192 seats leaning Democratic. That means Republicans are expected to win less than one in six seats in the House.

The updated numbers come as Republicans’ projected House lead has shrunk in recent months, from about 230 seats in July to just 226 at the end of August, according to a CBS News analysis. This change in projections is likely due to a number of reasons, including the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, that helped Democrats motivate their electoral base.

Meanwhile, a Fox News analysis this week found Republicans were the favorites to take control of the House. The network predicted House Republicans would end up with a 13-seat majority in the House, holding 231 seats to Democrats’ 204.

The outlet also noted that House Democrats had a chance to retain power. And the reasons stem in large part from the weakness of GOP candidates in swing districts. Majewski in Ohio, it seems, is hardly an outlier for Republican problem candidates.

In the Northwest, Republican candidate for the 3rd District of Grand Rapids and Muskegon in Michigan, John Gibbs, is on the defensive over college-era remarks about women’s suffrage.

Gibbs, while attending Stanford University in 2000 and 2001, argued that women should not vote or work outside the home, as reported by CNN. At the time, Gibbs challenged many of what he called “common notions” about gender roles and inequalities in the United States.

“Having more women in the workplace doesn’t benefit men, it just tires them out. In the post-feminist workplace, men have to bend over backwards to make sure they don’t offend inadvertently a woman who might overhear a joke or comment uttered in humor and harmlessness,” Gibbs wrote.

Now as a candidate for Congress more than two decades later, the revelation sparked a torrent of negative stories this week about Gibbs’ candidacy. Gibbs was already in a tough fall race after beating freshman Rep. Peter Meijer in the Republican primary. Lawyer Hillary Scholten is the Democratic candidate in a district that is becoming increasingly close to her party. In 2020, the 3rd district would have voted for Biden against Trump 53.3% against 44.8%.

Then there’s Republican candidate for Virginia’s 7th congressional district, Prince William County Supervisor Yesli Vega. She is challenging Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger for the seat in suburban South Washington, DC, in what had looked like a promising pickup opportunity for Republicans.

Vega, however, has drawn controversy and criticism for downplaying the possibility of getting pregnant from rape. Shortly before the Supreme Court overthrew her 49-year-old man Roe vs. Wade abortion decision, effectively leaving states to pass their own laws on the matter, Vega was asked about it at a campaign event. Leaked audio recordings showed Vega that she wouldn’t be surprised if a woman’s body prevents pregnancies from being violated because, Vega said, “it’s not something that happens organically. ” and that the rapist does it “quickly”.

Running through a district filled with suburban and exurban professional-class voters increasingly distancing themselves from Republicans on social issues, Vega has spent the past three months trying to explain his remarks. She could win in a red wave, but Spanberger, tireless activist, now has the upper hand.

Vega, along with Majewski in Ohio and Gibbs in Michigan, is one of only three Republican candidates in a campaign that is poised to tip the House red. All three could go on to emerge victorious on election night.

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But the negative headlines they and other goof-prone candidates are creating are making it harder for Republicans to win the House. At the very least, it forces Republican-allied outside groups to spend valuable resources on advertising and other outreach activities in districts thought to be in good enough shape for Republicans.

The big question for House Republicans in the final stretch of the campaign is how many of those races will need to be sorted.