Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Don’t-Call-Me-Romney McDaniel sounded the alarm about Republican fundraising in a call with major donors Wednesday, begging them to fill the gap left by weak small-dollar fundraisers. According to McDaniel, Republican small donors had been “decimated” by the economy … even though Democratic fundraising is very strong. Seemingly inflation is only affecting Republicans.
McDaniel had some work to do in convincing Republican billionaires and millionaires that the fundraising slowdown didn’t reflect broader problems for the party and its candidates, sounding particularly defensive about the Senate for some mysterious reason. “We absolutely have better candidates and a better message,” she said, days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hinted at problems with “candidate quality.” Joining her on the call, Newt Gingrich said he “suspects” McConnell “regrets having said that” and touted the strength of Republican Senate candidates.
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Better candidates? Mehmet Oz is out there embarrassing himself every day and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is taking advantage of every bit of it. J.D. Vance is managing to look weak in Ohio, a state that has gone seriously red in recent years. In Georgia, Herschel Walker’s incoherence regularly makes headlines. Arizona’s Blake Masters has ideas as scary as his extremely intense eyes.
One problem for Republican small-dollar fundraising has been the party’s strongest fundraiser: Donald Trump raises a lot of money and shares very little of it with the party or its candidates. But even Trump was affected by the large drop-off in online fundraising that had hit Republicans but not Democrats, according to July reports. Ahead of the media narrative shifting to the possibility that Democrats wouldn’t be obliterated in November, there was something going on with small-dollar donors that suggested the intensity wasn’t all with Republicans.
In addition to the recent fundraising problems, Republicans are also contending with overspending at the National Republican Senatorial Committee that has left the committee low on cash on hand despite strong fundraising earlier in the cycle.
Running with the “Our candidates are great! Really! It’s just the money!” angle, McDaniel insisted, “Newt and I were just talking, in this environment, our candidates can win if they’re outspent two-to-one, but if it gets four, five, six to one, it becomes more difficult, and we’re seeing that specifically on the Senate side. So my call to action today,” McDaniel said, “is to please help us invest in these Senate races specifically. Give to any of these Senate candidates, all of these Senate candidates if you can, so all of them can be on TV.”
How’s that for explicit begging? Please, rich people, bail out our flagging Senate hopes with your piles of cash!
One of the billionaires on the call, disgraced casino mogul Steve Wynn, spoke up with a question: How can his fellow rich people give money anonymously? What can those who “are self-conscious for reasons that are personal to them, business people and folks like that” do to help buy elections for Republicans? Wynn also had messaging advice for the Republican Party, naturally assuming that his money makes him an expert on everything. Wynn wants to see Republicans coming out with “Hard-hitting kind of spots with a man’s voice, no soft pedel (sic).” The false message: “‘[Democrats are] coming after you if you’re a waiter, if you’re a bartender, if you’re anybody with a cash business … they’re coming after you.”
Wynn encapsulated what the whole call was about: Republicans finding a few billionaires to run flagrantly false attack ads against Democrats. McDaniel and Gingrich would prefer for as much of that money as possible to run through the Republican Party itself, to keep them relevant, but they will take it where it comes.
McConnell may have been more honest than his fellow Republican leaders wish, with his allusion to “candidate quality,” but he wasn’t wrong. There’s a reason Republicans are so desperately worried about their Senate prospects. There’s a reason Democratic fundraising is holding strong while Republicans face problems.
Republicans still have structural advantages in November, including gerrymandering in the House and the small-state advantage in the Senate. But they’re worried for a reason.
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Going into the midterms, Democrats can be seriously grateful that Rick Scott is on the other side
Republicans confront massive drop-off in online fundraising