When you’re short on cash, spending more isn’t usually the best idea. But for national Republicans, an aggressive program of early spending helped soften the Democratic landscape for the current GOP surge.
And now, a coalition of outside groups has announced a massive spending plan that could allow Republicans to compete dollar for dollar in the final weeks of the campaign.
“We knew Democrats, theoretically, had a funding advantage,” said GOP media consultant Brad Todd of OnMessage Inc.
Throughout the election cycle, the National Republican Congressional Committee trailed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in available money by at least a 2-to-1 ratio. In addition, Democratic incumbents stockpiled cash against GOP challengers who were underfunded or whose campaign accounts were depleted by competitive primaries.
Republicans faced some critical spending decisions.
“We had a fundamental belief from the beginning of the cycle to make the playing field larger,” said Todd, who is the lead consultant for the NRCC’s independent expenditure unit. “We had to get candidates in position with NRCC money to get them closer in the polls.”
Last year, the NRCC bought radio ads during recess against longtime incumbents such as Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) in an effort to encourage retirements or embolden strong challengers.
Then, over the past few weeks, the NRCC bought television ads attacking relatively secure incumbents such as Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) in an attempt to lower their poll numbers and drag those districts into the top tier of competitive races.
Like the spending last year, going out early was a risky strategy since the NRCC has now spent almost half of its money with three weeks to go before the elections.
“We took a calculated risk by outspending the DCCC for the last seven weeks. We knew that we would likely get outspent in the last week, maybe two, but our goal was to light up the Democrats early, drive up their negatives by taking advantage of the environment and plan to remain competitive in the final days,” according to an NRCC official. “Voters are making their minds up now, and we wanted to make an impact before the real clutter of thousands of campaign ads hit in the final two weeks.”
Now it looks like Republicans will get reinforcements from a collection of GOP outside groups — including American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS, American Action Network, and the Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity — which announced it will spend an additional $50 million on House races, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The groups plan to spend in races such as Colorado’s 7th, where Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D) held a dramatic cash advantage over his challenger; New York’s 22nd, where Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D) is new to the list of vulnerable incumbents; and Indiana’s 2nd, where Rep. Joe Donnelly (D) looked like he was pulling away.
In addition to those districts, Crossroads plans to be on television by Friday in California’s 3rd district, New York’s 20th and 25th, Ohio’s 18th, Florida’s 22nd and Hawaii’s 1st, according to a spokesman for the group.
There is some doubt on both sides of the aisle on whether the $50 million will materialize, but if it occurs, the spending would be unprecedented in its size and scope.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., walks on Broadway after a Future Forum with young entrepreneurs in the Flatiron District of New York City, April 16, 2015. Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Grace Meng, D-N.Y., also attended.