“We intend to build the largest battlefield in a decade this cycle, with incredible candidates who can build professional, winning campaigns,” said DCCC Spokesman Tyler Law. “Encouragingly, people on the ground are chipping in early, motivated to support Democratic challengers all across the map.”
Democrats’ early money haul stuns GOP
Democratic candidates are reporting historic early fundraising totals, alarming GOP strategists and raising the prospect that 2018 could feature the most expansive House battlefield in years.
Animated by opposition to President Donald Trump and the Republican congressional majorities, at least 162 Democratic candidates in 82 GOP-held districts have raised over $100,000 so far this year, according to a POLITICO analysis of the latest FEC data. That’s about four times as many candidates as House Democrats had at this point before the 2016 or 2014 elections, and it’s more than twice as many as Republicans had running at this point eight years ago, on the eve of capturing the House in the 2010 wave election.
Nearly three dozen Republican incumbents were outraised by Democratic challengers in the third quarter of this year – a stunning figure. Nine GOP incumbents already trail a Democratic opponent in cash on hand, increasing the likelihood that many veteran incumbents will face tough opposition for the first time in years.
The Democrats’ fundraising success, especially from a glut of candidates who have never run for office before, is unsettling to those charged with protecting the GOP majority.
“That’s something that should get every Republican’s attention in Washington,” said Jason Roe, a Republican strategist who works on House races. “These first-timers are printing money.”
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who has never gotten less than 58 percent of the vote in 12 terms in Congress, is among those suddenly facing cash-flush opposition. Three Democratic opponents outraised Frelinghuysen in the third quarter, and each has already brought in more money than any challenger Frelinghuysen has faced in a quarter-century.
In Texas, GOP Rep. John Culberson, whose Houston-area district attracted little attention from either party before Hillary Clinton carried it in 2016, finished the summer with less campaign cash than two different Democratic opponents.
The long slate of well-funded Democratic candidates, coupled with a favorable political environment and poor polling numbers for Trump, is raising Democratic hopes of erasing the GOP’s 24-seat majority.
[…] The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $8.9 million in September, beating its Republican counterpart for the fifth month in a row. But the National Republican Congressional Committee still has more than $10 million more in its bank account — money that will come in handy across the sprawling battleground, especially if more incumbents retire.
Democrats and Republicans each have a handful of costly, open battleground seats to defend, from Rep. Dave Reichert’s (R-Wash.) suburban district outside Seattle to Democratic Rep. Tim Walz’s rural seat in southern Minnesota.
“Resources will be spread thin because no incumbent — in the primary or in the general — can afford to not take this seriously,” said Roe, the Republican consultant. “We’re just spread thin. That’s our vulnerability, the strain on resources.”
That strain was apparent in recent comments by Rep. Glenn Grothman, who represents a solidly Republican block of eastern Wisconsin, easily won reelection in 2016, and has not typically made lists of GOP incumbents vulnerable to a 2018 challenge. Grothman told a local radio programearlier this month that he’s “very apprehensive about the future,” because “the fundraising is not going as well as I’d like.”
“We’re not raising as much money as we should,” Grothman added.
A week later, his Democratic opponent, Dan Kohl, filed a campaign finance disclosure showing him outpacing the Republican incumbent.
House GOP Fears Wave in 2018 as Money Woes Grow
House Republicans are growing increasingly alarmed that some of their most vulnerable members aren’t doing the necessary legwork to protect themselves from an emerging Democratic tidal wave. In some of the biggest media markets, where blockbuster fundraising is a prerequisite for political survival—most notably in New York City, Los Angeles, and Houston—Republican lawmakers aren’t raising enough money to run aggressive campaigns against up-and-coming Democrats.
Of the 53 House Republicans facing competitive races, according to Cook Political Report ratings, a whopping 21 have been outraised by at least one Democratic opponent in the just-completed fundraising quarter. That’s a stunningly high number this early in the cycle, one that illustrates just how favorable the political environment is for House Democrats.
The third-quarter fundraising reports paint a gloomy picture for many Republicans. Rep. Steve Knight of California raised only $144,000 in the last three months, less than the total of two lesser-known Democratic challengers. Veteran Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey brought in only $154,000—just over one-third the amount of his leading Democratic rival, retired Navy helicopter pilot Mikie Sherrill. In the Houston area, Rep. John Culberson, who typically doesn’t face competitive races, raised only $172,000 in a Democratic-trending district that backed Hillary Clinton last year.
The list goes on: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, under scrutiny over his unseemly ties to Russia, was outraised by a highly touted challenger and has only $600,000 in the bank. Rep. Claudia Tenney of New York saw her leading opponent raise twice as much money she did; even her Republican predecessor, former Rep. Richard Hanna, donatedto the Democratic challenger. Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey brought in less than $200,000 in the quarter and has less than a half-million in cash on hand in a district where advertising is prohibitively expensive.
[…] Tiberi’s departure follows recent moves by other allies of Speaker Paul Ryan, many of whom represent competitive districts that Democrats plan to challenge. So far, 18 House Republicans have announced their retirements in this election cycle, the highest number at this stage since 2004, according to an analysis by Daily Kos. If the retirement pace continues, Democrats will find themselves with an easier pathway to winning back control of the House, since incumbency is one of the most powerful advantages Republicans hold.
The odds of a Democratic House takeover in 2018 have never looked greater this election cycle. One plugged-in House Democratic strategist, who has previously been circumspect about the party’s chances to win control of the lower chamber, put the chances of Nancy Pelosi again becoming speaker at a 7 (with 10 being the most likely). The strategist’s outlook is bolstered by a growing pile of empirical evidence, like eye-popping fundraising from the party’s top challengers, suggesting that next November is poised to be a wave election for the Democrats.
Meet the Challengers Who Outraised House Incumbents
Nearly one year out from the 2018 midterms, challengers outraised nearly 30 percent of the incumbents in competitive races during the third quarter.
Sixteen Republican incumbents in competitive races raised less than their Democratic challengers during the third quarter. One Democratic incumbent was outraised by a GOP challenger.
Competitive races are the 62 ones not rated safe for either party by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales. Only one of those incumbents is in a toss-up race.
In all but three of the races, incumbents still had more money in the bank than their challengers at the end of the quarter.
In some cases, Democratic challengers raised two to three times more than the GOP incumbents in their districts.
Two Democrats in New Jersey’s 11th District each raised about three times as much as 12-term Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen. His $157,000 haul was notably low for the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, who represents one of the wealthiest districts in the country.
Former Navy pilot Mikie Sherrill raised $498,000 in the third quarter, after raising $246,000 in the second. Family advocate Tamara Harris donated and loaned her campaign about $300,000, but even without that self-funding, she still narrowly outraised Frelinghuysen.
Frelinghuysen raised closer to half a million dollars in the previous two quarters, leading Garden State political observers to wonder if he may be thinking of retiring at the end of the 115th Congress. Inside Elections rates the 11th District race Likely Republican.
In Virginia’s 5th District, another Likely Republican race, freshman GOP Rep. Tom Garrett raised just $92,000. Democrat Roger Dean Huffstetler raised more than three times as much, posting $302,000 in the third quarter. Huffstetler ended the quarter with five times as much money in the bank.
Garrett raised even less during the second quarter, bringing in just $43,000, compared to Huffstetler’s $345,000. The congressman raised $79,000 during the first quarter, before Huffstetler entered the race.
Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath’s viral campaign videos may have helped the first-time candidate more than double what three-term Republican Rep. Andy Barr raised. During her first full quarter, McGrath raised $772,000 compared to Barr’s $300,000. Inside Elections rates the 6th District race Leans Republican.
New York Democrat Anthony Brindisi raised nearly twice what freshman GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney raised in the 22nd District. Brindisi, also in his first full quarter, raised $413,000. Tenney only raised $213,000 — less than the $305,000 she raised during the previous quarter.
Two of Rep. Duncan Hunter’s Democratic challengers raised close to double the $91,000 the California Republican raised. Retired Navy SEAL Josh Butner raised $175,000 and former Obama administration official Ammar Campa-Najjar raised $170,000.
[…] And four other GOP incumbents were outraised by nearly six figures. In Illinois’ 12th District, Democrat Brendan Kelly outraised GOP Rep. Mike Bost by about $97,000. In Michigan’s 8th District, former Defense Department official Elissa Slotkin brought in about $95,000 more than GOP Rep. Mike Bishop. Democrat Max Rose outraised Staten Island Republican Rep. Dan Donovan by $111,000. And elsewhere in New York, two Democratic challengers each outraised Faso by about $100,000 each.