The NRCC on Thursday canceled the entire $960,000 ad buy it had booked in Ohio’s 9th District to defeat Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a development that was first reported by the Republican firm Medium Buying and confirmed by Politico and the Democratic firm Amplify Media. The committee's pullout came one day after the Associated Press reported that Kaptur’s Republican opponent, QAnon-aligned activist J.R. Majewski, had lied about serving in Afghanistan. The NRCC has not yet commented on the move, though the committee is still touting Majewski as a featured candidate on its website.
While Senate Republicans have scaled back, or outright canceled, their planned spending in a number of battlegrounds, this appears to be the first time this cycle that either party has retreated in a House contest. Big-money players usually make this sort of move to redirect cash elsewhere either because they feel supremely confident, or because they've concluded their candidate is doomed. It’s unlikely anyone feels supremely confident in Majewski.
Until the May primary, Kaptur, who is the longest-serving congresswoman in history, very much looked like one of the GOP's top targets in the nation, since Republicans had radically transformed her Toledo-area constituency from a 59-40 Biden district to one that Trump would have taken 51-48. But everything changed in the spring when Majewski, who attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on Congress and later went to the Capitol grounds, defeated two Republican state legislators to win the nod to take on the 20-term incumbent.
Kaptur and her allies went on to air a litany of ads arguing that Majewski’s presence at the riot proved that he was a danger to law enforcement. (Majewski claims he never actually entered the Capitol building.) They also utilized footage of the Republican speaking favorably of secession and rapping in a video titled “Let's Go Brandon Save America” to make their case that he shouldn’t be in Congress. A recent Kaptur commercial highlighted Majewski’s ties to QAnon, with a narrator saying, “The FBI calls QAnon a domestic terrorist threat … Extremist J. R. Majewski is one of them.”
National Republicans, though, still stuck with Majewski, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy even stumped for him last month. “This is a competitive race,” McCarthy insisted, continuing, “I hope everybody understands we are in this race. Because we have a candidate that understands what Ohio needs.” The NRCC also came to Majewski's aid last week when it helped him air his very first positive commercial of the race.
However, things somehow got worse for the Republican on Wednesday when the AP reported that military documents showed that Majewski, who had previously said he “lost my grandmother when I was in Afghanistan,” had never been stationed in the country. Instead, the self-described "combat veteran" spent six months in 2002 loading planes at an Air Force base in Qatar, far from the front lines. That seems to have been it for the NRCC, which yanked its planned spending the next day.
Majewski likely won’t be the last House candidate to get abandoned as Election Day draws nearer, and while there’s little question the GOP is triaging him because they’ve decided he’s a poor investment, future developments may be more difficult to interpret. That's partly because we have to rely on media reports for data about TV ad bookings, and those sources may not have access to complete information—particularly the motives of those making or canceling reservations.
Groups like the NRCC can also always change their minds and jump back into a race they'd previously given up on—they'll just pay higher rates if they do so. It’s also possible that the committee's allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund will see the race differently and get involved, though FEC reports show that CLF has yet to spend anything here.