Looking for a top Senate staffer? You might have more luck in West Virginia than on Capitol Hill: Numerous veteran aides from both parties — but Democrats in particular — have decamped in recent weeks to help candidates in some of the tightest Senate races in the country.
Since the Senate adjourned Sept. 29, high-ranking Democratic staffers have hitched up with campaigns in West Virginia, Nevada and other battleground states, while many GOP aides are nervously idling in Washington, D.C., frustrated with their party’s decision to suspend its last-minute get-out-the-vote deployment.
“We will lose races because of this,” said one senior Senate GOP aide, referring to the Republican National Committee’s inability to coordinate the traditional 72-hour GOTV effort for House and Senate races. Though its name implies a three-day deployment, in past years Capitol Hill staffers left as soon as Congress adjourned in order to help in tight races.
Democrats are no less eager to help their own candidates, given a persistent enthusiasm gap that most polls show favoring high voter turnout for Republicans.
“A lot of people want to go out right now,” one Democratic operative said. “The Senate is not in session, and Senators want to be helpful. Part of that is being helpful with staff.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is managing Senate campaign deployments from Capitol Hill, declined to say how much money is dedicated to supplying additional staff to campaigns across the country or which states might get more resources. But recent surges in states such as Delaware, where Democrat Chris Coons became the heavy favorite after tea-party-backed Christine O’Donnell won the GOP nomination in September, will likely benefit from an increase in manpower and money.
Saying there was little need or money for the party’s usual GOTV efforts this year, the RNC confirmed to Roll Call a week and a half ago that it would spend its limited resources instead on mailings and other last-minute election efforts. The committee had a relatively paltry $5 million in cash on hand at the end of August.
“A lot of people would go if there were money, which there isn’t,” the senior Senate GOP aide said. “The GOP 72-hour program is a very good counterweight to the Democrats’ union push. ... There are a ton of resources in D.C., people that want to go out. The enthusiasm for [winning] is through the roof.”
Another senior Senate GOP aide said the RNC “is correct in that in a lot of these states — Nevada, Washington — early voting decreases the influence of a final 72-hour push. That being said, a deployment program is better than no deployment program. ... It’s put pressure on other party [organizations] to set up GOTV programs.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has deployed staffers to a number of states, including Nevada, and those operatives have been on the ground for months, sources said.
Another Senate GOP aide said outside groups and state parties “are picking up the slack,” particularly in California, where the state GOP is mobilizing for the gubernatorial race.
GOTV efforts “are happening, just not the way it used to be, which was very coordinated,” the aide said.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.