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Richard Hudson has no margin for mistakes.
As National Republican Congressional Committee chair, Hudson is responsible for not only expanding the party’s House majority in 2024, but protecting the 18 Republicans who won in districts carried by President Joe Biden.
Republicans hold a nine-seat majority after the 2022 midterm election in which the party performed more poorly than projected, in part because Democrats rallied their base angry over the Supreme Court decision to overturn the federal right to an abortion and the nomination of Trump-backed GOP candidates viewed as too extreme.
Even with the pressure, Hudson (N.C.) said he’s optimistic he’ll find high-quality candidates. He says things will work out despite the distraction of Rep. George Santos, the newly elected Republican from New York who faces ethics probes after it was revealed he fabricated most of his resume.
Hudson also said that if Donald Trump does become the Republican nominee for president, it will boost turnout for House Republicans even though the former president is facing legal woes and challenges from GOP rivals.
Hudson said he’s done a “thorough, deep dive” of the 51 targeted races last year. He presented some of those findings at the recent Republican issues conference in Orlando, emphasizing the need for the NRCC to be more involved with campaigns. That includes extending assistance to candidates in open primaries so whoever becomes the nominee is ready to hit the ground running.
“Our plan is to go recruit strong candidates, just like we did the last two cycles, but then build really strong campaigns around them,” Hudson said in an interview with Bloomberg Government. “You’ll see the NRCC more involved in that, spending more resources on ground game, making sure we’re turning out the vote.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity and clarity.
BGOV: What were the lessons you took away from 2022?
Hudson: We made some assumptions last cycle that didn’t turn out to be true. There were a lot of races where we had challengers run against Democratic incumbents and we were basically tied going into Election Day. My assumption with all the years I’ve been in politics is if you’re an incumbent, you don’t have that voter by Election Day, you’re not going to get them. But we didn’t win as many of those close races as we thought.
We did a great job on outside spending. We actually had more resources than the Democrats and deployed them very well.
The key is making sure our candidates have the resources they need to tell their story.
BGOV: Is this a matter of fundraising more? Is this a matter of starting earlier?
Hudson: It is starting earlier with campaigns. Even our open seats, we’re communicating with folks that are interested in running. Even in primaries, we’ll make sure they’ve got good teams in place, make sure that we’re helping them wherever they want us to help.
We’re not going to endorse in any of these. Whoever gets through the primary, we’ve already got a relationship. We already feel good about the campaign team around them.
BGOV: Lawmakers are in the middle of handling a banking crisis. Do Republicans need to return donations from Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank?
Hudson: Now is not the right time to start making recriminations and assigning blame. I expect the [Financial Services Chairman Patrick McHenry] is going to have very vigorous hearings on this. Let’s let the facts come out.
BGOV: In 2024, you’ve got the presidential election. What is your message to Republicans on how they need to campaign in regard to the nominee?
Hudson: Going back to the lesson we learned last cycle is our candidates have to have the resources that they can define themselves.
BGOV: But it’s easier to do in a midterm.
Hudson: Much easier because there’s so much more noise in a presidential. Breaking through that noise is hard. But the answer is having unique candidates that have the resources to tell their story to try to get out there. So it’s it’s the same solution.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. I mean, I’m hoping we have a nominee who’s running away with it, and we have huge coattails, but we don’t know and so we’re preparing for any eventuality. Again, by recruiting great candidates, building strong campaigns around them and giving them resources. That’s the answer.
BGOV: Is it going to be harder for House Republicans to keep their majority if Trump winds up being the nominee?
Hudson: No, I think it helps us. It being a presidential election, it helps us drive turnout. Turnout models have changed as our Republican electorate has changed. I think we shifted to more middle-class, blue-collar voters who are not as likely to turn out in non-presidential years. That’s one of my lessons looking back at some of these races. I think, like Mayra Flores in Texas, Republicans turned out but the independents who lean Republican didn’t turn out as much as we wanted them to. And so I think the Presidential brings those folks out. So I think it’s a huge benefit to us.
BGOV: Are there a couple districts that you think that Republicans did not win in 2022 that Trump running could help you guys win in 2024?
Hudson: Because the way the turnout models work, I think it helps us across the board.
BGOV: Is there plan to keep candidates like Santos who have blatantly lied on their resume from becoming the nominee?
Hudson: It’s tough because there’s a lot of candidates out there. We can’t go do research on all of them. We will trust the voters to sort that out between the media and the Democrats. If you look at all the cycles, this is an anomaly.
BGOV: Santos said that he does plan to run again, is the NRCC going to treat him just like any other incumbent?
Hudson: We’ll see how the process plays out. I think there’s an ethics process in place, there’s a Justice Department process in place. No reason to play hypotheticals now.
BGOV: Are you worried that some of these Republicans from swing districts will be hurt if there’s not more bipartisan legislation?
Hudson: If we’re doing things the American people want us to do, and keeping the promises we made, I don’t think it matters. But obviously, it also would help us with our chances of getting something through the Senate to the President, if we can get bipartisan support. I think there are a number of things you’ll see that will be bipartisan. I believe divided governments is a time where you can really get big things done, so you can spread the blame out to both parties.
BGOV: What are the the races that you are watching most closely right now?
Hudson: Anybody who’s in a Biden district or had a close election last time we’re working with and keeping an eye on.
To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org