Around this time last year, Republican hopes for reclaiming control of the Senate were in free fall. The GOP’s massive drop-off in online fundraising was exacerbated by Sen. Rick Scott's glaring mismanagement of the National Republican Senatorial Committee's campaign coffers, forcing the NRSC to cancel tens of millions of dollars in ad reservations right when their crop of flailing MAGA candidates needed it most.
Meanwhile, Democratic Senate candidates were absolutely crushing their GOP rivals in fundraising. The same was true in the House, with Democrats outraising their GOP counterparts in 50 of the 65 most competitive districts during the final months before the November 2022 election.
Republicans’ plunge in donations juxtaposed with Democrats’ hand-over-fist fundraising foretold a cycle in which the party in control of the White House would defy political gravity, blunting the red wave that would supposedly sweep the nation.
One year later, House Republicans appear to be saying, Guys, hear me out: What if we shoot ourselves in the foot all over again?
That's what the hapless lawmakers have effectively done by ousting their chief fundraiser, Kevin McCarthy, from his perch as House speaker.
Whatever McCarthy's failings, he was a crackerjack fundraiser, boosting Republican candidates across the country.
“Nobody can raise money like him,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota. “And no matter who is the next speaker of the House, none of them can do what Kevin McCarthy did.”
McCarthy's Tuesday ouster hurt Republican coffers almost immediately. Less than 24 hours later, the National Republican Congressional Committee canceled its Fall Gala in Dallas, where McCarthy was slated to be the headliner. The committee told the Associated Press McCarthy raised more than $40 million last cycle and had already raised roughly half that amount for the 2024 cycle.
But all that pales in comparison to McCarthy's impact on the speaker-aligned super PAC: the Congressional Leadership Fund. Through McCarthy’s tireless efforts, CLF posted the following numbers over the past several cycles:
- 2020: $215 million
- 2022: $350 million
- 2024 (to date): $80 million
Nothing to sneeze at, for sure.
What's even more confounding for House Republicans is that the NRCC and CLF serve as a backstop for candidates who encounter fundraising headwinds. One of the reasons Senate Republicans were in such a bind last cycle was that not only were their candidates putting up virtual goose eggs when it came to donations, but their committees and associated super PACs weren't in a good position to make up the difference. That's a problem, and Senate Republicans paid the price for it by not only failing to retake the Senate but also losing a seat to Democrats in a cycle that initially favored the GOP.
Now, House Republican nihilists led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida have hamstrung both NRCC and CLF fundraising while also undermining their counterparts in more moderate districts. Gaetz is in a ruby-red safe district that will surely reward his maniacal boobery, but the 18 House Republicans who currently sit in districts Biden won in 2020 need to show voters they are capable of governing.
Just imagine the donation appeals of those 18 Republicans: "I know we suck ... but with your hard-earned dollars, we might suck less!"
It's gonna be hard to fundraise off that dumpster fire, not for Gaetz, but for the most vulnerable Republican members whose fate will determine the chamber’s majority.
Sign if you agree: No more MAGA circus. Hakeem Jeffries for speaker!
It’s been an unprecedented week in politics as (now former) Speaker Kevin McCarthy was booted out of the Speaker’s chair. 538’s Nathaniel Rakich joins us to break down the fallout, including how it might affect the 2024 race for the House and if McCarthy might resign and trigger a special election for his Congressional seat. We also talk about the good special election trends for Democrats this year and how to incorporate polling into your thinking about elections.