With the Republican Party on the cusp of major gains in the House next year — and with the dream of retaking the House appearing to be a real, if improbable, possibility — one major obstacle remains: tightfisted Republican incumbents.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, the key cog in helping to finance GOP campaigns, has banked less than a third as much money as its Democratic counterpart and is ending the year with barely enough money to fully finance a single House race — no less the dozens that will be in play come 2010.
A big part of the problem, according to Republican strategists, is that GOP members themselves — the ones who stand the most to gain from large-scale House gains — haven’t chipped in accordingly, despite evidence of solid opportunities in at least 40 districts next year and with as many as 80 seats in play, according to the Cook Political Report’s estimates.
In the past three months, only 75 of 177 Republicans — most of whom represent safe districts — transferred money into the committee, netting it $2.1 million. The average donation was just $28,000, with only 11 members donating $50,000 or more during that time period.
During that same time period, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has netted nearly $4 million from 90 of its members — with 35 House Democrats chipping in at least $50,000.
Republicans are already expressing concerns that they may not have enough resources to fully take advantage of the political climate, which is shaping to be the most favorable for the GOP since the last time they took control of the House in 1994.
“We have the recruits to get this back, but we don’t know if we have the resources. We need every one of [our members] pulling at the oars right now,” NRCC executive director Guy Harrison told POLITICO.
The NRCC’s chairman, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), took the post last fall with high fundraising hopes, combining his own Texas money connections with a climate of rising anticipation in the conservative grass-roots.
The environment has grown even more encouraging throughout the year, with a wave of swing district Democrats announcing their retirement. Most recently, House Republicans scored a major coup in persuading freshman Democratic Rep. Parker Griffith to switch parties.
But that hasn’t yet translated into a financial windfall for the GOP, and in November the committee posted its worst monthly fundraising number since April — even at a time when all political indicators suggest the momentum is on the Republican side.
The fundraising disparity between the two committees is striking: The DCCC outraised the NRCC this year by more than $18 million, according to FEC figures at the end of November. The NRCC has only $4.3 million left in its campaign account — with more than $2 million in debt — leaving it with just a pittance to fund the dozens of races it hopes to aggressively contest.
The DCCC, meanwhile, is sitting on a $15.3 million nest egg (with $2.6 million owed), steadily expanding its cash-on-hand advantage over Republicans throughout the year.