At least, that's what the Wall Street Journal is saying. Apparently, the GOP is unhappy with nominee Woody Jenkins, despite his solid right-wing credentials (with endorsements from the Club for Growth and Family Research Council), and they're debating how strongly to back their special-election nominee in an R+6.5 district.
Still, there is little enthusiasm for Mr. Jenkins among congressional Republicans, who view him as a second-tier candidate in what should be an easy victory for the party. The National Republican Congressional Committee, House Republicans' campaign arm, is weighing what resources to invest in the race.
Their Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has a more than 7-to-1 cash advantage, according to the most recent FEC reports. The DCCC had $38 million on hand as of mid-March, while the NRCC had $5.1 million. Similarly, Mr. Cazayoux has so far raised more than double the amount of his opponent. The DCCC has embraced his candidacy and will likely invest in the race if it unfolds as competitively.
A Republican aide said the NRCC will meet with Mr. Jenkins's campaign this week to discuss strategy and to outline financial benchmarks that the campaign will have to meet to receive the campaign committee's support. They are currently polling in the district as well. "We are aware of the challenges we face," said a House Republican aide, noting that a Jenkins victory "is doable, but it's difficult."
Wait...their candidate has to meet certain "financial benchmarks", for them to even consider swooping in and saving him from defeat in a strongly Republican district which hasn't elected a Democrat since the 1970s? It's surprising enough that this race is so competitive in the first place; are they serious about abandoning Jenkins if he doesn't kick his fundraising up a notch?
I suppose that's understandable in a way; the NRCC hasn't been reaching its own "financial benchmarks", so it is hardly in a position to compensate for Jenkins' lousy fundraising.
Still, I can't see how hoarding what little monies they have left would be worth the PR hit they would take for the future if they lost here. Hell, losing a district like this would seriously damage their fundraising ability going forward. Nobody likes backing a sure loser, and a loss here would indicate to one and all just how bad an investment it is to donate to the NRCC.
James at Swing State Project has an interesting take on this:
Now, I find it pretty hard to believe that the NRCC would give up on an R+6.5 Southern open seat so easily, even with Jenkins' shady ties to former KKK leader David Duke figuring prominently in just about every post-runoff news article on this race. But if the GOP wants to game the expectations that winning this district -- one that hasn't elected a Democrat to Congress since the early 1970s -- is an uphill fight for them, well, that's their choice to make.
Like James, I can't really believe that the NRCC is seriously considering abandoning this district altogether. But the mere fact that they're trying to lower expectations here is instructive. Their polling hasn't been good, and Cazayoux's fundraising has far outstripped Jenkins'.
That this race is competitive at all speaks to a number of factors; Cazayoux has run a good race, Jenkins has proven a controversial candidate (ties to David Duke will do that to you sometimes), the general political environment is favorable for Democrats, and it's possible that an influx of Katrina refugees to the Baton Rouge area has made the district slightly more Democratic.
While the Republicans say that winning the race with Jenkins is "doable, but difficult", I still think it's tougher for us to win than it is for them, even in the current favorable environment. That said, it certainly seems like there's real cause for concern for them, and reason enough for us to be (very cautiously) optimistic.
Strangely enough, John Boehner had a good line about Republican woes here, again from the Journal article:
Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said the election forecast for Republicans isn't as gloomy as some expect, although he acknowledged that Republicans are unlikely to close the cash gap with Democrats. "You can put all the lipstick on a pig you want, but we're not doing well" financially, he said Thursday.
Lipstick on a pig, indeed.