“Our managers set records. And our members – especially these freshmen – have these $ 500,000 to $ 1 million reports released just a few years after a big Republican report that was usually around $ 250,000, “said Rep. Tom Emmer ( R-Minn.), Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The GOP had some productive fundraising drives last quarter: The Reps. Young Kim (R-Calif.) And Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) Both cleared $ 1 million. Representatives Nancy Mace (RS.C.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) And Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) raised over $ 850,000. All but Fitzpatrick are members of the 2020 Freshman Class.
Of course, the House of Representatives still publish massive quarterly numbers. And the reallocation process makes it harder to know which incumbents will need large war chests. But Republicans are seeing a new wave of financial support in the sideline, and as Democrats recognized in 2018, it is often one of the earliest signs of basic enthusiasm and successful outreach for the majority.
“In 2018, we are putting a lot of emphasis on candidate development, candidate money, and the ability to empower candidates to tell their stories,” said Dan Sena, former Democratic Congress electoral committee executive director. “That was a key reason why we were able to recapture the house.”
“What Democratic strategists and the upcoming Democratic campaigns should be aware of is that it now looks like Republicans are doing the same,” added Sena.
Another sign of the GOP’s momentum: the National Republican Congressional Committee has overtaken the Democratic Congress Campaign Committee on fundraising, outperforming the DCCC by $ 8 million in the first six months of 2021. At this point in the 2020 cycle, House Democrats had outperformed Republicans by over $ 17 million.
The NRCC attributes this success in part to their painstaking and longstanding efforts to build a digital operation.
In interviews, Emmer often recalls a moment in early 2019 when a top committee digital strategist wrote him a memo urging him to invest heavily in small-dollar fundraising. That strategist, Lyman Munschauer, predicted that after one year the NRCC would suffer a net loss of 3 to 5 percent on this investment before making any profit.
But the benefits came even faster: the NRCC started making money within a year, and it kept pouring in.
In the second quarter of 2019, the NRCC raised $ 3.3 million online. More than $ 14.1 million was raised during the same period this year.
“This time we’re even more aggressive,” said Emmer. “Yes, this investment is paying off.”
WinRed, the GOP online fundraising platform created as an alternative to the Democrats’ ActBlue, launched in a similar fashion and has raised $ 2.3 billion since its inception in 2019.
“Your average Democrat who rules is now all about digital money,” said WinRed President Gerrit Lansing, noting that ActBlue was founded in 2004. “We just have to complete this 15-year cultural change and just try to condense it in a few cycles to catch up.”
For the GOP, this stroke of luck comes at a crucial time. When corporate PACs announced they were cutting their donations in the aftermath of the January 6 riot, there were concerns that would disproportionately hit Republicans, who are sometimes more reliant on these gifts.
“We’re all online-based now,” Lansing said of his party. The shift took place years ago, but “the fruits of that labor are really starting to materialize. And it happened to coincide with this giant company’s PAC cage-rattle situation. So it’s ironic.”
Perhaps more importantly, WinRed helped Republicans redirect the wealth to new candidates, especially Downballot. Of the $ 131 million raised on the platform in the second quarter, nearly 40 percent came from first-time donors for a single campaign.
Some of the party’s most dexterous fundraisers are able to move their supporters to other candidates. For example, Rep Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.), who has raised over $ 1 million every quarter since she was revealed in Trump’s first impeachment trial, has shared 150,000 donors since the beginning of the 2020 cycle.
All of this has fueled a digital-first mentality among Republicans that has long dominated the Democratic political ecosystem, which some in the GOP attribute to their current freshman class, younger, more tech-savvy, and less used to face-to-face fundraising than fundraising longer term
“We started building our digital programming early,” said Hinson, who served as the Cedar Rapids TV news anchor before turning his seat in 2020. “I like doing digital fundraising. I am a person who is right in front of the camera. “
Filming online advertisements has helped her connect with voters and donors, Hinson said. “We use Facebook ads a lot for our digital fundraising and we’ve got great feedback from the comment sections on those ads.”
And like the NRCC, GOP campaigns seem more comfortable with the idea of spending money to make it. Hinson, along with some of the party’s biggest fundraisers like Kim, Steel, and Mace, spent well over $ 300,000 in the last quarter – a higher sum than was the norm a year and a half before the election.
All of them have made significant investments in fundraising advice, digital marketing, and web advertising, according to their FEC reports.
Still, Democratic incumbents retain a significant cash-on-hand advantage, especially those like Reps. Josh Harder (D-Calif.), Mikie Sherrill (DN.J.) and Antonio Delgado (DN.Y.) who did not face particularly competitive re-elections in 2020 and have well over $ 4 million in the bank. Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) Has a staggering $ 12.9 million with her.
And some agents were privately relieved of the small booty of some highly touted Republican challengers. GOP State Senator Jen Kiggans from Virginia raised just $ 286,000 for her run against MP Elaine Luria (D-Va.). And Navy veteran Tyler Kistner raised just $ 279,000 for his rematch with Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.). Although these challengers didn’t hit the market until mid-April, both incumbents raised far more than twice as much.
However, some of the money also went to GOP challengers. Republican Derrick Van Orden surpassed incumbent Wisconsin MP Ron Kind by $ 754,000 to $ 409,000.
However, in the coming quarters, Republicans face an additional hurdle: potential challengers dragging their feet and waiting for the delayed redistribution process to begin.
“I hope more candidates will fill in soon and not wait for new district lines,” said Dan Conston, president of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a top GOP super PAC. “Because this condensed calendar is going to be a huge challenge for you to raise funds online and raise funds for big dollars.”