The GOP's 'Spectacular' Recruits To Run For The House Are Flailing Financially

In November, the National Republican Congressional Committee put out a memo dedicated in part to boasting about some of its new recruits, who, it said, would help expand the GOP’s razor-thin majority in the House.

“Republicans are in a strong position to expand the map and compete in [President Joe] Biden-won districts because of spectacular GOP recruits,” said the memo from House Republicans’ campaign arm.

“Yet for the campaign arm of House Democrats, candidate recruitment paints a picture of doom and gloom. Plagued by retreads, progressive firebrands, and messy primaries, House Democratic recruitment is the polar opposite of GOP recruits.”

The dozen Republican candidates touted by the memo were notable for their diversity — the group included four women and two African Americans, as well as an Indian American competing for a seat in Kansas.

“Strong candidates with compelling backgrounds that match the life stories and experiences of voters are able to compete to win in tough districts where top-of-the-ticket Democrats will be presumed to be victorious,” the memo said.

But early in the election year, with still a long but quickly shrinking runway remaining, all of the dozen recruits the NRCC cited as “top GOP recruits running in target races” are well behind their Democratic opponents in terms of cash on hand, according to federal election filings.

As of Dec. 31, the latest data available, Democrats had an average cash-on-hand advantage of over $1 million in those races — $1,169,654, to be exact.

“The NRCC’s recruiting of far-right extremists to run for Congress has so far produced campaigns that are landing like lead balloons,” said Viet Shelton, a spokesperson for the NRCC’s competitor, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Republicans hold a narrow majority of 219 to 212 in the House, a margin that will narrow further when New York Democrat Tom Suozzi is sworn in to replace expelled GOP Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), as expected, later this week.

Democrats are optimistic about their chances of gaining control of the chamber, given the small number of seats they need to flip, redistricting fights in some states under Democratic legislative control and a series of missteps by House Republicans, including ousting now-retired Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the speakership and having to redo an impeachment vote against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

But Republicans hope that a strong showing at the polls by former President Donald Trump will help them overcome the usual volatility of House races.

“Probably who wins the presidency, wins the House,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former NRCC chair, told the conservative Ripon Society recently.

Incumbents typically are able to out-fundraise their challengers and thus have more cash on hand, but the size of some of the leads in the NRCC-highlighted contests raises eyebrows. In two races, the 9th Congressional District in California and New York’s 18th District, the cash advantage was over $2 million.

Unsurprisingly, several of the dozen “top GOP recruits” have faced difficulties in raising money.

In Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, Republican challenger Joe McGraw had raised only $220,763 through December, compared with incumbent Rep. Eric Sorensen’s (D-Ill.) $2.097 million. The cash-on-hand difference was $1.413 million.

In New York’s 18th District, incumbent Rep. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.) had raised $3.147 million through the end of December, compared with GOP challenger Alison Esposito’s $250,194. In Minnesota’s 2nd District, incumbent Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) had raised $3.053 million, compared with GOP challenger Joe Teirab’s $303,388.

One candidate among the dozen, Heidi Kasama, even dropped out of her race in Nevada to instead run again for her state Legislature seat. (She had almost $400,000 in cash on hand in December, and her totals are included in the calculations above.)

In 2022, the average Democratic House candidate who made it to the general election raised $2.08 million, while the average Republican raised $1.92 million, according to calculations by the OpenSecrets research group.

A spokesperson for the NRCC declined to comment on the fundraising or cash-on-hand totals of the candidates the committee had touted in November.

However, the spokesperson provided NRCC figures showing that 14 vulnerable GOP incumbents targeted by Democrats also had large cash advantages against their challengers.

In those races, the cash cushion was almost $825,000 on average, according to the NRCC figures.