The Republicans were overwhelmingly old, white and male. “To be frank with you, I watched the Democrats stand up, and they looked like America,” said Mr. McCarthy, who is white. “And we looked like the most restrictive country club in America.”
“That had to change — or I was going to be the leader of a declining party,” Mr. McCarthy said.
In 2020, Republicans had already narrowed Ms. Pelosi’s majority, picking up 14 seats. Every new Republican member who flipped a seat that year was either a woman, a person of color or a veteran. Mr. McCarthy saw a blueprint for a 2022 red wave.
From the moment of Mr. Biden’s victory in 2020, the tailwind of history was behind House Republicans. In the last 90 years, the party that holds the White House has lost an average of 28 seats in the House in a midterm election. And this year, Republicans needed just five to flip the chamber.
Mr. McCarthy aggressively recruited candidates across the country, building a slate of 67 nonwhite candidates this fall. In some cases, Mr. McCarthy would patch in Donald Trump Jr. on recruiting calls. Mr. McCarthy’s allied super PAC would fund favored candidates.
The first Republican to defeat a Democratic incumbent on Tuesday, Jennifer Kiggans, a former Navy pilot, cleared her primary with nearly $600,000 in super PAC support. In Arizona, the same super PAC spent $1 million helping Juan Ciscomani. Mr. Ciscomani had been a top aide to one of Mr. Trump’s Republican enemies, Gov. Doug Ducey, and the McCarthy team fiercely lobbied to keep Mr. Trump out of the race.
Mr. Trump stayed out of the race of only one House Republican who had voted to impeach him: Representative David Valadao of California, a McCarthy ally in a heavily Democratic swing seat.
Mr. Ciscomani and Mr. Valadao both lead in races that are too close to call.
In Michigan, the McCarthy operation wooed John James, a Black veteran, to run for a seat in a newly drawn district, releasing a poll that showed him beating the region’s two Democratic incumbents. The Democrats ran against each other in a neighboring district rather than face Mr. James.