Democratic House Candidates Celebrate Financial Bonanza 28 Days Before Midterms
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The numbers are rolling in, and just 28 days before the midterm elections, Democratic House candidates are celebrating a financial bonanza the likes of which they do not often see. For some Republican incumbents, though, vital funds may dry up even before Election Day. NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Democrats say that 60 of their challengers raised more than a million dollars each in the past three months. It's a staggering number. Politico determined that two years ago, just eight Democratic nonincumbents rounded up enough money to reach the million-dollar mark. In Fresno, Calif., prosecutor Andrew Janz pulled in more than $4 million this summer from his Democratic donors. One reason is his opponent, Republican Devin Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a loyal Trump ally.
ANDREW JANZ: In many parts of the country and in many parts of our state here and even locally, people wanted this guy out of office.
OVERBY: Janz cited another reason, too - his own robust fundraising operation.
JANZ: We knew that the national party and the DCCC weren't going to be supporting us.
OVERBY: That's because the handicappers don't consider Nunes to be all that beatable. He was reelected two years ago by a 35-point margin. The DCCC Janz referred to is the Washington-based Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. There's also a National Republican Congressional Committee, or NRCC. They support candidates in races they deem winnable. Each side also has a super PAC for really big donors. It evaluates candidates the same way.
STEVE ISRAEL: This is the time of year when the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee loses sleep and grows gray hairs because you know that the Republican super PACs are going to come in very, very heavy.
OVERBY: Steve Israel is a former Democratic congressman and chairman of the DCCC. He said that with the gusher of third-quarter money, much of it from small donors, this year might be different.
ISRAEL: The Republican super PACs may not be able to just write a single check to buy a single race because of the massive grassroots fundraising energy behind Democrats this year.
OVERBY: A new memo gives House Republicans good news and bad news. It's from their super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund. NPR obtained a copy. The good news - so far in the general election campaign, the super PAC has outspent the Democrat super PAC by $35 million. The bad news - many of the GOP incumbents were slow to rev up their fundraising operations, so Democratic candidates and their party committees are outspending the Republicans by $66 million.
TOM DAVIS: The campaign committees have to decide which races they're going to fund and which ones they're going to have to pull out of.
OVERBY: Tom Davis is a former Republican congressman. He worked two election cycles as chair of the NRCC, and he said the current chair will be starting to call some of the incumbents, his own colleagues in Congress, with messages like this.
DAVIS: We thought we'd be able to do a million dollars in TV, but now we have to put that somewhere else because frankly, you're just not performing, and we can't afford to waste it to make you feel good.
OVERBY: Either the NRCC or the Republican super PAC or both have already cancelled TV ads that were planned for at least six GOP incumbents. And the triage will continue. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.