In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race. Campaign finance is a big part of the story.
There is no historical precedent for financing this broad and deep for congressional challengers. About half of the 92 GOP incumbents are protecting battleground districts, and some of them posted personal-record fundraising totals in the third quarter of 2018 — but they still found themselves swamped by a combination of incandescent online fundraising for Democrats and bigger donors spreading money to challengers around the country, as 61 Democrats raised over $1 million. Fifty-one House Republicans were outraised at least 2-to-1, according to POLITICO’s analysis of the latest Federal Election Commission filings, while 71 were outspent by their challenger. Only five Democratic House incumbents were outraised.
Meanwhile, 33 GOP representatives have less cash on hand than their Democratic challengers, while no Democratic members lag their Republican opponents in cash. That cash on hand gap has been a particularly dire historical indicator: In the last four elections, two-thirds of the House incumbents who ended September with less cash to spend than their opponents lost their seats weeks later.
Typically, only a handful of incumbents find themselves in that position each year. But a high number of cash-swamped Democratic incumbents heralded the Republican wave election in 2010. That year, 18 House Democrats finished the third quarter with less cash on hand than opponents, and 10 went on to lose their seats weeks later.
The financial picture is even worse for the GOP in open districts, where Democrats lead Republicans in both fundraising and cash on hand in two-dozen contested seats, after an unusually high number of retirements before this election.At the Los Angeles Times, Christine Mai-Duc reports :
Another Republican consultant, granted anonymity to speak candidly, put it more bluntly: “We’re getting our asses kicked. Nothing else to say.”
This year’s midterm election is already the most expensive ever, with the total raised by House candidates nationwide surpassing $1 billion weeks before the Nov. 6 election. In California, with at least seven tightly contested races that could decide control of the House, Democrats seeking to win seats in areas long held by Republicans are raising staggering amounts of money.
In those seven races, Democrats raised $21.6 million over the last three months ending Sept. 30; Republicans took in just $4.2 million in aggregate.
The Republican candidates also had smaller cash reserves, with an average of about $652,000 at the end of the quarter. Their Democratic opponents, all of them running for office for the first time, had on average more than $1.2 million in the bank.
All but three of California’s 12 Republican House incumbents running for reelection were out-raised by their competitors in the third quarter. Only Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and Reps. Paul Cook of Yucca Valley and Ken Calvert of Corona raised more than their rivals.