House Democrats pull out as GOP money floods the map
The result is a narrowed battleground for Democrats that has seen leaders and rank-and-file members press the rest of their party, including Biden, for more support in a bid to salvage the House majority. . Anxiety is particularly acute in southern Arizona, where the retired Democratic Rep. Anne Kirkpatrick lobbied her party to help Kirsten Engel, the Democratic candidate vying to replace her.
« I know from every bone in my body that Engel will win this district if we can get DCCC invested sooner, » Kirkpatrick said of his swing seat where National Republicans have so far spent more than $1.3 million. dollars on television. « I understand the impossible decisions they have to make every cycle, but to come in late and undervalue this race is a huge mistake. It’s a seat we keep blue if we get big now.
Panic among House Democrats intensified this month as groups outside the GOP continued to set fundraising records. Despite high fundraising for candidates, Democrats have been unable to respond with the same volume of money, and the party has struggled to free up resources to attack potentially threatened Republican incumbents – an element crucial to their strategy, as they must make up for expected losses in more conservative Democratic districts.
Democrats now only have a 5-seat majority and already appear to be giving up some tough seats their incumbents currently hold in Arizona, Wisconsin, Texas and Michigan.
« The No. 1 factor here is money, » said Tim Persico, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
In an interview, Persico did not rule out late spending in any race, but did cite the impending cash crunch. Asked about Engel in Arizona, he said she « deserves » support.
« If we had more resources, I would like to be here, » Persico said. « He’s been one of the heartbreakers of this cycle so far. »
In total, national Democratic groups are airing no TV ads in six of the 14 Republican-controlled districts that opted for Biden in 2020 — some of the most important seats up for grabs. This includes the district represented by Garcia, which won in 2020 by 333 votes.
On top of that, Republican outward spending is forcing Democrats to divert precious resources to what should be safe blue neighborhoods. This week, the Democrats’ super super PAC scaled back a planned TV blitz in Los Angeleswho could have targeted Garcia, and Tucsonwhere Engel shows up, to redeploy the money elsewhere.
« The stakes are high here and we need everyone on deck, » Rep. Gerry Connoly (D-Va.), who called on fellow Democrats to encourage them to pay their party dues in full to help save the majority. « We don’t want to leave millions of dollars on the table. »
Regarding a district like Garcia’s, he added, « If Biden wins by double digits, we should be able to win or keep this district. » But we must have the resources.
Top Democrats insist the fight is not over. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has held a trio of big fundraisers in California in recent days, with headliners including former President Barack Obama and first lady Jill Biden. She hosted Biden in Los Angeles on Thursday, as the Democratic National Committee announced transfers of $1 million each to campaign arms from the House of Democrats and the Senate.
Pelosi and his management team also increased the pressure on other members to give more to the party group. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, for his part, has been urging all committee chairs to call members and encourage them to pay DCCC dues over the past few weeks, according to people familiar with the conversations. Several rank-and-file Democrats seeking positions on top committees next year have made similar calls.
They are making a bigger point than the majority of the House. They say saving even a seat or two would make Biden’s life less painful dealing with a smaller GOP majority. An injection of about $20 million, according to a senior Democratic official, could hold the House.
Some party members are more blunt: « With $55 million in the bank, the White House needs to understand that the best and best use of its time and money is to leave everything on the ground to protect the majority of the House. said a Democrat involved in the House races, citing the ability to shield Biden from GOP investigations. « They’ve done a lot, but it’s not enough. »
Biden advisers and party officials have repeatedly championed their collective contributions to midterm Democrats as the largest of any administration, including millions of dollars transferred to House Democrats and a coordinated campaign across several Battlefield states who pays personnel and organizes in the field.
A shrinking target list
Democrats have always known that their campaign leader, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.), would be forced to make tough decisions to prioritize some races over others closer to Nov. 8. Tom O’Halleran‘s (D-Arizona) and three other Democrat-held open districts in Wisconsin, Michigan and southern Texas, which are walking away from the party.
But some lawmakers and strategists say they still fear they won’t be able to spend on the offense. For example, Democrats are spending on television to help about half of the three dozen candidates the DCCC has named the party’s most formidable challengers. And the lack of investment in targeting Republicans in seats won by Biden is particularly noticeable.
Even in a good year for Republicans, Garcia, a former Navy pilot, faces strong headwinds in his North Los Angeles district, which Biden carried by 13 points — a higher margin than almost any other members of the House GOP conference.
National Republicans have spent nearly $1.8 million to help Garcia so far. No Democratic group helped repeat challenger Christy Smith in the exorbitant Los Angeles media market.
representing Tony Cardenas (D-California), who joined Sen. Alex Padille (D-California) at a campaign event for Smith last week, said he was optimistic he would win — but acknowledged the flood of GOP money there.
“Republicans always come up with literally millions and millions and millions at the last minute. But we have the best candidate,” Cárdenas said. “Hopefully we will see other resources flowing in as well.”
In neighboring Orange County, no help came for Democrats Jay Chen and Asif Mahmood, the underdogs challenging GOP representatives. michelle steel and Young Kim, respectively. Biden carried both districts.
Expensive media deals are a common theme among Democratic candidates who don’t get help in districts where fundamentals seem reasonable for the party. That includes Rep challenger Jevin Hodge. David Schweikert outside Phoenix, and Bridget Fleming, a rookie running for an open seat on Long Island. Biden narrowly won those districts.
Democratic outside groups have also been unable to provide support for Florida State Sen. Annette Taddeo, who is challenging the GOP representative. Mary Salazar in a Miami neighborhood, Biden narrowly lost.
Democrats are funding air coverage for several challengers running in GOP-held districts, including Greg Landsman in Ohio and Hillary Scholten in Michigan. But the national party was unable to support others in districts less favorable to Biden, including Iowa State Senator Liz Mathis and Iowa State Rep. Christina Bohannan, two highly touted rookies running in swing seats in Iowa, or Jackie Gordon, running for a free seat in New York.
« We’re lucky to have had a lot of support nationally, » said Landsman, who is trying to unseat Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) in a newly competitive seat in the Cincinnati area.
He called it « one of the most important races » to hold a majority and said National Democrats agreed. « They’ve seen it, they know it, they’re investing heavily, » Landsman said.
And Democratic groups are still pumping money into Democratic-leaning seats held by the representative. Bishop of Sanford (D-Ga.) and Rep. Greg Stanton (D-Arizona), as well as retired representative GK Butterfield‘s (DN.C.) and a newly established headquarters in Springfield, Illinois. Republicans did not match spending in those seats.
But the Congressional Leadership Fund, the House of Representatives GOP super PAC, blasted Democrats with a series of late-night TV ads in other districts. He announced Thursday that he had passed the $200 million spending mark by pouring more money into several races that Biden won by more than 10 points, including seats held by representatives. mike levin (D-California) and Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) and a vacant seat in Rhode Island.
The DCCC, House Majority PAC and other allied groups have rallied to try to match that spending.
« Card expansion has been a key part of our strategy this cycle, » said Dan Conston, who leads CLF. « We’re in a position to seriously challenge traditional Democratic-leaning seats and that has forced Democrats to make tough decisions about who to exclude and who they can afford to run for. »
Jordan Carney and Christopher Cadelago contributed to this article.