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The Democrats' Path to a House Majority Runs Through the Sunbelt

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter
Image: People protest outside of the Junior Seau Beach Community Center as Rep. Darrell Issa holds a town hall meeting inside, March 11, 2017 in Oceanside, California.
People protest outside of the Junior Seau Beach Community Center as Rep. Darrell Issa holds a town hall meeting inside, March 11, 2017 in Oceanside, California. Issa held the meetings to discuss health care reform with constituents from his district, which straddles Orange County and San Diego County.Hayne Palmour IV / AP

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter

The Democrats’ path to retaking the House goes through the Sunbelt

As we wrote yesterday, the GA-06 battle tells us something much bigger about how both parties are being realigned. Non-rural districts in the American Sunbelt -- either suburbs or chunks of cities that have historically swung red -- are most likely where the battle for the House will play out in 2018. And there are plenty of pickup opportunities for Democrats in these areas, too. Out of a total of 97 districts where Republican members won in 2016 but where Trump received less than 55% of the vote (including GA-06), 38 are located in the Sunbelt. Democrats need to pick up 24 House seats to take back control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • AZ-02 Martha McSally
  • AZ-06 David Schweikert
  • CA-04 Tom McClintock
  • CA-08 Paul Cook
  • CA-10 Jeff Denham
  • CA-21 David Valadao
  • CA-22 Devin Nunes
  • CA-25 Steve Knight
  • CA-39 Ed Royce
  • CA-42 Ken Calvert
  • CA-45 Mimi Walters
  • CA-48 Dana Rohrabacher
  • CA-49 Darrell Issa
  • CA-50 Duncan Hunter
  • FL-15 Dennis Ross
  • FL-16 Vern Buchanan
  • FL-18 Brian Mast
  • FL-25 Mario Diaz-Balart
  • FL-26 Carlos Curbelo
  • FL-27 Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
  • GA-06 (vacant)
  • GA-07 Rob Woodall
  • NC-02 George Holding
  • NC-09 Robert Pittenger
  • NC-13 Tedd Budd
  • NM-02 Steve Pearce
  • SC-01 Mark Sanford
  • TX-02 Ted Poe
  • TX-03 Sam Johnson
  • TX-06 Joe Barton
  • TX-07 John Culberson,
  • TX-10 Michael McCaul
  • TX-21 Lamar Smith
  • TX-22 Pete Olson
  • TX-23 Will Hurd
  • TX-24 Kenny Marchant
  • TX-31 John Carter
  • TX-32 Pete Sessions

In all but 11 of those, Trump either lost the district or won it by 10 points or less. Now, some of these incumbents are more endangered than others, and the dynamics in individual districts are sure to change as we learn more about how each race is shaping up. But this isn’t a bad list for Democrats to start with -- and it doesn’t even include some of the most obvious targets in affluent suburban GOP districts in the rest of the country (like Virginia or New Jersey).

Montana Dems: Where’s the national cavalry to help in the May 25 special election?

The next big special congressional election -- in Montana on May 25 -- gets treatment from the New York Times, which has local Democrats wondering why the national party hasn’t gotten involved yet to help Dem nominee Rob Quist. “National folks should be coming in here,” Gov. Steve Bullock told the Times. “It is a winnable race.” More: “[Republican Greg] Gianforte is leading the race, according to private surveys that both parties have conducted, although a Democratic group, House Majority PAC, was to gauge the race with a new poll this week. While Mr. Trump remains more popular here than in most states, there is ample anti-Trump energy on the left: Organizers estimated that as many as 10,000 people turned out in 20-degree weather for the January Women’s March in Helena, a gathering Mr. Bullock said was the largest crowd ever to rally in front of the state capitol.”

Atlanta residents, get ready for more TV ads coming your way

Meanwhile, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution has the latest on the GA-06 runoff. “More than $14 million worth of ads have already flooded Georgia’s 6th District. And with a June 20 runoff looming, outside groups are readying another volley. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to Paul Ryan, was quick out the gates with a digital spot that depicts Ossoff as a creation of Nancy Pelosi. It’s one of a string of advertisements linking Ossoff to the House Democratic leader, who polls abysmally in the conservative-leaning north Atlanta district.”

Judge Curiel is back in the news

Guess who’s overseeing the case against the DREAM Act beneficiary who says he was wrongly deported by the Trump administration? Gonzalo Curiel -- in a plot twist worthy of a TV-series drama. As NBC’s Kristen Welker reported on “Today” this morning, “He’s the judge, who then candidate Trump thrust into the headlines saying, ‘I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater, he's a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel.’ The world first met Judge Curiel last year when he oversaw a lawsuit against Trump University and became the target of Trump’s scathing and frequent attacks. ‘The judge was appointed by Barack Obama, federal judge. I mean frankly he should recuse himself’… ‘I believe he happens to be Spanish, which is fine, he's Hispanic, which is fine and we haven't asked for a recusal which we may do, but we have a judge that's very hostile, should have been thrown out.’”

CBS poll: 61% believe marijuana should be legal

As the Trump administration has stepped up its rhetoric against marijuana use, a new CBS poll finds that support for marijuana legalization is at an all-time high. “Sixty-one percent of Americans think marijuana use should be legal, a five-point increase from last year and the highest percentage ever recorded in this poll. Eighty-eight percent favor medical marijuana use. Seventy-one percent oppose the federal government’s efforts to stop marijuana sales and its use in states that have legalized it, including opposition from most Republicans, Democrats, and independents. “

Will other House members follow Chaffetz’s lead?

It’s not every day when a congressional committee chairman — from a safe seat, mind you — announces he’s not going to run for re-election. But that’s exactly what Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) did yesterday. Now it appears that Chaffetz might be eyeing running for Utah governor (and getting out of DC isn’t a bad recipe for that kind of gubernatorial run!). But it will be interesting to see if other House Republicans follow Chaffetz’s lead given the current political environment.

Trump’s Day

At 3:50 pm ET, President Trump holds a bilateral news conference with Italian Prime Minister Gentiloni.

What were other presidents doing on April 20?