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WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, is at the top of the Republicans' wish list for seats they'd like to capture in the 2020 election. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) released its target list of 55 Democratic House seats, naming Bustos as one of the most vulnerable members.

Bustos was elected chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) shortly after winning re-election over her Republican opponent Bill Fawell, of Galena, by nearly 62 percent of the vote.

The NRCC and DCCC are the committees tasked with recruiting candidates and fundraising on their behalf for their respective parties. 

Of the 55 Democratic seats being targeted by the NRCC, 31 are in districts won by President Trump in 2016.

NRCC Regional Director Carly Atchison said Republicans are confident they can win Bustos' seat in 2020.

"It's still early; we are aggressively recruiting candidates. We put (Bustos) at the top when we sent out our target list. She's going to have a problem defending her seat in a Trump district," Atchison said. 

"The first place to look is at districts that Trump won, including Bustos. Those districts have shown they are ready to be Republican."

Atchison said Bustos won by 20 points and spent $3.1 million "when she was essentially unopposed."

Fawell lost support of the Republican Party after discovering he promoted conspiracy theories involving 9/11, the Sandy Hook school mass shooting, and other events on this Elect Fawell Facebook page.   

"(Bustos) had an opponent. He was on the ballot," DCCC Communications Director Jared Smith said. "I would reject that and say (Bustos) has demonstrated the commitment to getting results for hardworking families in Illinois.

"(Bustos) takes nothing for granted and that's why she's increased her margin of victory every time she's had a race for Congress."

All three Democratic House representatives in Iowa are also on the NRCC list: Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa City; Abby Finkenauer, D-Dubuque; and Cindy Axne, D-West Des Moines. 

For their part, the DCCC has released a list of 33 seats Democrats will be targeting in the 2020 election, including controversial Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa and U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, of Illinois' 13th Congressional District. 

"We think we have a lot of opportunities to go on the offense this cycle; 26 House Republicans only won by 5 points or less," Smith said. "Many of them are in districts where no one expected the races to be competitive. There are a number of districts we feel really good about.

"It's not a very good sign for Republicans when their most vulnerable members are throwing in the towel right at the beginning of the cycle," Smith said, referring to U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia's 7th Congressional District.  

As part of the strategy in turning public sentiment against popular Democrats, the NRCC is running an aggressive digital ad campaign to fight "the baseless impeachment of the President."

Atchison said Democratic Socialists like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez only help the Republican party.

"The Socialist Democrats are putting out some crazy, radical policies that are at odds with the majority of Americans," Atchison said. "We look forward to them selling the Green New Deal, single-payer healthcare and infanticide. They're discussing a human life; we've moved from abortion into infanticide. 

"I think the Socialist Democrats are making Trump the adult in the room," Atchison said. 

"Washington Republicans have been making attacks like this over and over," Smith said. "Voters didn't buy it in 2018 and they don't buy it now. Republicans are trying to change the subject because they don't want to explain why they gave windfall tax breaks to the wealthy."

Smith said Democrats are focused on issues like affordable healthcare and cracking down on corruption.

"We just passed HR1 and every Republican voted against it," Smith said, referring to For the People Act; legislation that would expand access to voting, and put ethics laws in place such as banning House members from serving on corporate boards and requiring the vice president and president to release federal tax returns. 

"It's early in the cycle, but we certainly have a lot of opportunities on the map," Smith said. "Our freshman class is working hard to represent their districts and demonstrate to voters why they were the right choice." 

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Sarah is a reporter for the Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline.com.

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