If money is any indicator of what the elections will look like in November, Republicans are in big, big trouble. Before the expected blue wave arrives, the GOP is already drowning in a green wave.
According to Politico, Republican candidates in the 70 most contested races have put aside $60 million for TV ads. By contrast, the figure for Democrats is $109 million, and that figure doesn’t account for the $20 million that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged to spend on Democrats in the waning weeks of the campaign.
A financial pinch is an unusual feeling for Republicans, although the Trump campaign felt it in 2016. Trump spent only half of what Hillary Clinton did on her campaign, due to a combination of Trump’s own cheapness and a widespread belief among the donor class that Trump was a sure loser not worth investing in.
While Republicans might like to comfort themselves with Trump’s example, this year’s races are entirely different. There are dozens of contested campaigns, particularly for the House, and the lack of money is putting GOP candidates at a distinct disadvantage.
“From Democrat candidates to outside groups, we’ve never seen anything like this before,” Brian Walsh, president of the pro-Trump America First Action super PAC, told Politico. “They are dumping in cash by the truckload.”
A lot of that money comes from small donor contributions. Beto O’Rourke, who is running for Senate against incumbent Ted Cruz, raised $38 million in the last three months alone, breaking records. O’Rourke does not take money from PACS, special interest groups or corporations. The money is a tribute to the disdain in which Democrats around the country hold Cruz, with his anti-LGBTQ bias.
Similarly, Andrew Janz, who is running against Rep. Devin Nunes, Trump’s Congressional attack dog against the Russia investigation, raised $4 million in the last three months.
Meanwhile, Republicans are having to make some hard choices with their cash. They’ve begun to write off some incumbents in races that the party has deemed lost causes. The party has stopped spending money on a handful of candidates, diverting the precious funds to other, more salvageable campaigns.
Among the losers in the lottery is Rep. Kevin Yoder. Yoder is facing Sharice Davids, who is on track to become the first openly LGBTQ person from Kansas in Congress. Others tagged as losers by their own party include Rep. Mike Bishop of Michigan and Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado.
Many of the most vulnerable Republicans are in districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, and not all of them have awful anti-LGBTQ records like Yoder. Coffman, for example, has a 68% voting score from HRC.
Republicans may still raise some last-minute money to help as the campaigns draw to a close. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson just opened up his wallet for an as-yet undisclosed sum to help Republicans save their Congressional majority. That may staunch the losses a little, but by now the odds are high that Republicans will lose the House. (They are likely to hold onto the Senate, however.)
Contrary to popular belief, money confers a lot of advantages, but it can’t buy an election. Both Janz and O’Rourke are lagging in polls. As much as Democrats outside of Fresno and Texas respectively want to see the incumbents lose, the voters in the districts get the final say.
Still, money can tip races, and Democrats will find out soon enough just how well spent their money was.