New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas (D) made the national GOP’s list of potential pick-ups in 2022. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is targeting the First District congressman as one of eight “Underperforming Democrats” they can defeat in the midterms to take back control of the House.

“House Republicans start the cycle just five seats short of a majority and are prepared to build on our 2020 successes to deliver a lasting Republican majority in the House,” NRCC chair Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) said in a press release Wednesday. “We will stay laser-focused on recruiting talented and diverse candidates, aggressively highlighting Democrats’ socialist agenda and raising enough resources to win.”

The NRCC breaks down their 47 targeted Democratic incumbents into three groups:

  • Battleground Democrats (29 seats), where Biden either lost to President Trump or the presidential or congressional margin was within five percent;
  • Underperforming Democrats (eight seats), who won by less than 10 percent and underperformed the presidential ballot margin (eight seats); and
  • Redistricting Watch Democrats (10), who currently represent districts in states gaining or losing seats during the reapportionment, or represent districts in states that have a redistricting commission.

Pappas won a second term in November with a 51-46 percent margin over first-time GOP candidate Matt Mowers, slightly underperforming Biden’s 52-46 percent performance in the district. That puts him in the “Underperforming” category.

However, many NHGOP insiders believe Pappas should be in the “Redistricting Watch” group, thanks to the Republican sweep of the legislature last year and public statements from Granite State Republicans indicating a solidly GOP First District map is in the offing.

Thanks to redistricting, NHGOP Chairman Steve Stepanek told his party’s annual meeting last month, “I can stand here today and guarantee you that we will send a conservative Republican to Washington, D.C. as a congressperson in 2022.”

NH Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley isn’t worried.

“I’ve never heard of a Tom Emmer, and he doesn’t know New Hampshire. These are just words on a computer screen in an attempt to convince lobbyists and swamp special interests to give Emmer money for their overpaid DC staff and consultants,” Buckley told NHJournal.

“New Hampshire knows and trusts Chris Pappas, and we don’t need a Trump enabler to tell us how to vote.”

Political observers are watching to see how Pappas chooses to respond to the new political reality in New Hampshire, where his seat would likely be in danger even before redistricting due to midterm election history. Republicans picked up NH-01 in both 1994 and 2010, the two most recent midterms when Democrats controlled the White House and Congress. (Democrats did the same in reverse in 2006 and 2018.)

Will Pappas preach moderation, or will he continue to be a reliable vote for Speaker Pelosi and progressive causes like a minimum-wage tax hike, COVID-19 relief checks for illegal immigrants, and taxpayer-funded political campaign ads?

By cozying up to special interests or having Nancy Pelosi fund 61 percent of his last finance report, Pappas continues to put their agendas ahead of the needs of struggling Granite Staters,” Mowers said on Wednesday. “New Hampshire deserves better, and clearly all eyes are on Nancy Pelosi’s personal congressman heading into 2022.”

Thus far, Pappas has yet to make any high-profile moves to the middle. While he just became co-chair of the bipartisan House Small Business Caucus, he also voted for Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 bill, a straight party-line vote. And during his first two years in office, he voted with Speaker Pelosi 82 out of 83 times.

Biden’s decision to reject GOP overtures on the COVID package and instead push through his plan on straight, partisan votes is likely to put Pappas in the position of making hyper-partisan votes while attempting to run as a New Hampshire centrist.

“Chris Pappas’ loyalty lies with Nancy Pelosi and the socialists in his party, not Granite Staters,” NRCC Spokeswoman Samantha Bullock told NHJournal. “For the next two years, we are going to hold Pappas accountable for selling out his constituents to stand with Washington Democrats and their job-killing policies.”

UPDATE: More bad news for Pappas late Wednesday when the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College released its latest poll. His net job approval is the lowest since taking office (43 percent approve, 38 percent disapprove) and among “swing voters” it’s 20 percent approve, 57 percent disapprove.