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Steve Stivers, House GOP campaign chief, says he feels good about prospects of retaining majority

September 7, 2018

The chief of House Republicans’ campaign arm on Friday said he feels good about the GOP’s prospects of retaining control of the U.S. House after November’s midterm elections, saying Republicans are prepared to buck political headwinds and ride themes of economic prosperity and security against an increasingly liberal Democratic message.

“I feel really good about our chances,” Rep. Steve Stivers, Ohio Republican, said at a breakfast in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “The radical left agenda is helping us.”

Mr. Stivers said Republicans will be able to run on themes tied to a strong economy and security, while the Democratic message of “abolishing ICE” and “socialized medicine” is moving “further and further left.”

“We’re not denying Democrats are excited,” he said, acknowledging that Democrats have over-performed the partisan lean in most of the nine special U.S. House elections this cycle, even as the GOP won eight of them.

But Mr. Stivers said his job isn’t to “cover the spread” and that Republicans have spent what is necessary to win special elections so far without wasting money.

“You either win or you lose I don’t need to cover the spread,” he said. “I feel pretty good about our chances to hold the House majority.”

Historically, the party that doesn’t control the White House has done well in the midterm election cycle after the president’s first election campaign.

Though 1998 came after President Bill Clinton was re-elected, Mr. Stivers said the 2018 cycle could be compared to that year, when Democrats picked up a handful of seats amid a solid economy, a president with an approval rating in the mid-40s, and the opposing party focused on impeachment.

“They defied history, and we just have to keep from losing 23,” he said.

The latest Real Clear Politics polling average shows Democrats holding about an 8-point lead over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot.

Independent political handicappers have said that two months out from election day, Democrats have at worst a 50-50 shot of picking up the approximately two dozen seats the party will need to re-take control of the House.

Democrats have made it clear that they intend to make the 2018 elections a referendum on President Trump. Mr. Trump’s approval rating is underwater in the latest RCP average, with about 41 percent approving of the job the president is doing and 54 percent disapproving.

Mr. Stivers said decisions on how to deploy Mr. Trump will likely be made on a case-by-case basis and that the president can’t make personal visits to hundreds of congressional districts anyway.

“I am convinced we know how to use the president in any district in America,” he said. “He is part of getting the base out.”

Mr. Stivers said the president’s help could also come in the form of robocalls and direct mail pieces, rather than actual campaign stops.

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