Exclusive: GOP Targets Seven House Democrats It Calls Vulnerable

Vowing to expand their majority, House Republicans have identified seven Democrats they consider top targets for the midterm elections, according to a National Republican Congressional Committee memo obtained by National Journal.

The targeted members are Reps. Ron Barber and Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, John Barrow of Georgia, Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, and Nick Rahall of West Virginia. Each represents a district that has voted for the Republican nominee in the last three presidential elections.

In the memo, NRCC Executive Director Liesl Hickey argues that the vulnerability of those seven Democrats illustrates the advantage Republicans carry into the 2014 House landscape, one in which a solid majority of congressional districts lean toward the GOP. That edge, she says, gives the NRCC a plethora of opportunities. "In 2014, Republicans will employ the same proven strategy that brought us such historic success in 2010 and 2012: Stay on offense," Hickey wrote.

Despite poor results last year, including losing the national popular vote in House races, Republicans escaped relatively unscathed in the lower chamber thanks to the favorable makeup of most congressional districts. That's in part because the GOP controlled redistricting in many important states, allowing the party to pile Democrats into individual districts. It's why Mitt Romney, while losing the popular vote decisively, won 227 congressional districts, the NRCC found. President Obama won only 208.

In all, 15 Democrats represent right-leaning districts, the memo says, compared with just four Republicans who represent left-leaning districts.

"Today, the GOP enjoys the second-largest Republican majority in the House since World War II, and that majority is built on a solid foundation," Hickey wrote in the memo. "In contrast, the Democrats' hopes of winning in 2014 continue to rest on quicksand."

She added that the NRCC plans to target more than 40 races overall.

The seven Democrats included as part of the GOP top-target list won't be easily defeated. Each survived an unfavorable district, in some cases winning easily. Peterson, for instance, won by 25 percentage points. And with the exception of Kirkpatrick and Barber, each survived the 2010 conservative wave.

For their part, House Democrats countered that the GOP optimism was misplaced. Last year, Obama won 16 districts represented by Republicans, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, while 30 Republicans won election by less than 10 points. Combined with a political climate that is souring on GOP leadership, Democrats say they have great opportunities in 2014.

"The battle space for House Democrats is deep," DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said. "There are number of House Republicans elected who are out-of-step with districts that are increasingly tending in our direction, and that makes them incredibly vulnerable."