The next month will be a blur of mud-slinging, fundraising and media buys for House and Senate campaigns. But on K Street, the midterm homestretch means war-gaming new committee lineups, bailing out faltering campaigns with last-minute checks and catching up on administrative duties after a hectic pre-recess period.
'The meetings are easier, and they're not very stressed,' a Republican lobbyist said. 'There's something nice about doing them when nothing's going on.'
There's also plenty of golf. On Friday, Democratic lobbyist Paul Block confirmed that he's invited as many as 80 people for an Oct. 14 round at Old Hickory Golf Club in Woodbridge, Va.
'This is a big one,' Block said of the mid-October outing.
And while the mood may be mellower, the pressure to fill candidate coffers has not disappeared.
In-town fundraising dropped off dramatically at the end of last week ' much to the delight of many lobbyists ' but the latest round of fundraising appeals suggests party leaders are still trying to wring every nickel out of the business community before Election Day.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for example, had more than 100 candidate events planned for last week, ranging from a $2,500 breakfast with the pharmaceutical industry to a $5,000 reception hosted by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. According to a new DCCC list out Friday, the committee is planning to hold one-fifth of the fundraisers it held last week between now and Halloween, including two events by ambitious House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.).
House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) also is hosting a Washington, D.C., fundraiser today, while House Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) will throw a $2,400 event at the Capitol Hill Club on Oct. 12.
House GOP leadership is also still attempting to raise as much cash as it can before early November. On Wednesday, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) will hold a $1,000-a-head fundraiser at Capitol Hill's Tortilla Coast.
A Democratic lobbyist said many colleagues are in regular contact with campaign committees to determine how to triage races in the final month before Election Day.
In the last few weeks of a competitive contest, the source said, staffers anxiously wait for overnighted K Street care packages that are sent to campaign headquarters at the direction of party committees.
[IMGCAP(1)]'At this time of year, from now until Election Day, [campaigns] wait for two things: UPS/FedEx envelopes and the mail,' the source said.
Lobbyists are also expected to spend the next four weeks sketching out post-Election Day scenarios for their clients. A new majority would no doubt mean heated contests for committee gavels as well as the top panel slots for the minority party in the House.
'We're not even talking about issues. It's before issues,' a Democratic lobbyist said. 'It matters who's chairman.'
Unlike previous election cycles, another Democratic lobbyist agreed that party leaders are not letting up on fundraising appeals.
'The intensity level has gone through the roof,' the lobbyist said. 'There's an opportunity for change and a lot of close races. ... Both camps are raising intense amounts of money.'
In addition to writing checks, this Democratic lobbyist said, October's to-do list also includes managing 'a ton of uncertainty' that Members created when they left town without finalizing tax proposals and a complicated rewrite of Federal Aviation Administration legislation.
'Because you don't know really what's going to happen, you have to prepare in terms of representing your clients for different alternatives,' the lobbyist said. 'It doubles or triples the amount of work.'
But uncertainty also means opportunity, said a Republican lobbyist who plans to spend the next few weeks prowling for new business. And with clients not incessantly calling for legislative updates, the GOP source said it's also a good time to organize the desk or reconcile the checkbook.
It's 'lots of prospecting, a lot of bookkeeping, a lot of getting your ducks in a row for next year,' the source said. 'This month lets you get that all done.'
A labor union lobbyist said the next few weeks will be anything but calm. With so many Democratic races in play this year, union employees based in D.C. are encouraged to either hit the road or the in-town telephone banks between now and Election Day. Once in the districts, union employees typically pass out fliers, distribute voter guides and meet with their members.
'We don't tell them to vote for Candidate A or Candidate B. We say, 'Candidate A has this record' and 'Candidate B has this record' ' and we let them decide,' the union source said. 'We're trying to help influence what's going to happen Nov. 2 rather than guess the outcome. We'll have time after that to figure out what our legislative agenda is.'