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Pelosi immigration speech overshadows Democratic retreat

Simone Pathé, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

In the special election in Pennsylvania's 18th District -- the first congressional matchup of the midterm election year -- Republicans are pounding the Democratic nominee as a Pelosi disciple.

It's the same message used against Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff last year and most Democratic candidates in last year's special elections. Republican outside groups, namely the Congressional Leadership Fund -- the super PAC backed by House GOP leadership -- have committed to spending millions tying House Democrats and their recruits to Pelosi.

Although Pelosi is a prolific fundraiser, there's long been hunger among some rank-and-file members for a leadership change. Those calls were especially loud after the 2016 elections, when Democrats netted only six House seats, and after Ossoff lost the most expensive House race in history last June.

Ever since Democrats' disappointing 2016, party leaders have stressed the importance of returning to an economic message that connects with the working-class voters Trump won. There's been much agreement about the need for a strong message heading into November, but sometimes conflicting iterations of that message.

Democrats need to gain 24 seats to win the House. To do that, they're going after wealthier, suburban districts that 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton carried. Twenty-three Republicans represent districts Clinton carried.

But in an effort to expand the map, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is also targeting seats Trump took by less than 50 percent of the vote, as well as some deep red territory. That includes districts Trump carried by high double-digit margins.

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Meanwhile, Democrats are defending a handful of districts Trump carried. Seven of the DCCC's Frontline members, who represent the party's most vulnerable, are sitting in Trump districts. Democrats are also trying to hold on to competitive open seats in districts Trump carried in Nevada, New Hampshire and Minnesota.

Asked whom they wanted to hear from at their retreat, Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley said most members mentioned someone like former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. And so, he joked, the caucus decided to bring in the real deal.

Pelosi was still talking about immigration when Biden arrived later that afternoon to address the caucus in the Capitol Visitor Center.

Biden delivered a positive message about Democrats' chances of retaking the House and said he'd do whatever they ask of him to help in that endeavor.


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