Apr 23, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House GOP's money machine

Data: Federal Election Commission, Cook Political Report; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

House Republicans in competitive districts dominated their Democratic counterparts in fundraising during the first three months of 2023, according to an Axios analysis.

Why it matters: Republicans have an early financial edge as they seek to expand their narrow majority and defend nearly 20 seats that went for President Biden in 2020.

By the numbers: Out of the 39 House incumbents whose seats are rated as either "toss-up" or "lean" by Cook Political Report, 17 of the top 20 fundraisers in the first quarter were Republicans.

What they're saying: "Money and message makes a majority, and our members are sprinting out of the blocks to build formidable war chests and tell their stories," Pandol said in a statement to Axios.

  • "A shift in control typically translates to increased fundraising for members of a new majority, but the razor thin margin gives every Republican in a swing district the ability to credibly claim that control of the House hinges on their re-election," said Ken Spain, a former communications director for the NRCC.

The other side: DCCC spokesperson Tommy Garcia noted that the committee out-raised the NRCC by $12 million during the first quarter.

  • "Come 2024, House Democrats will have the resources necessary to send extreme MAGA Republicans back to the minority," he said.
  • The DCCC also pointed to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) transferring $95,000 to $220,000 to many of the House Republican targets on the list.

Between the lines: Democratic strategists told Axios the numbers raise real concerns about their grassroots energy going into 2024, but also pointed to mitigating factors.

  • Several argued that, as the 2024 Republican presidential primary heats up, former President Trump — and, to a lesser extent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — will juice Democrats' political engagement.
  • "I think [we're] just in an enthusiasm gap right now," said Democratic strategist Chris Coffey. "But I don't think it will last. The only way it will last is if you have a run-of-the-mill Republican" presidential nominee.

What we're watching: Two freshman Republicans stood out for strong fundraising: Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.) brought in over $1 million in the first quarter, giving him an early advantage in a swing Phoenix-area district.

  • Rep. Tom Kean Jr. (R-N.J.) also was one of the strongest Republican fundraisers, bringing in $831,000 — the most first-quarter money raised by a freshman lawmaker in state history.
  • Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), who narrowly won re-election in 2022 and has faced ethics issues, raised the least out of any frontline Republican besides embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).

Zoom in: Two anomalous bright spots for Democrats were first-term Reps. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.).

The intrigue: Several other Democrats in competitive districts raised attention for underwhelming fundraising — raising retirement speculation.

  • Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) raised less than $100,000 for the quarter, receiving only nine itemized contributions.
  • Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), representing a Trump district, raised just $222,000 — toward the bottom of Democratic lawmakers in competitive seats.
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