Midterm elections are notoriously rocky for the party in power, and the second year of Joe Biden’s presidency is no exception. Predictions of a red wave have dominated the media for months based on the historical expectation that Republicans will benefit from being the party out of power. Add to that political environment record inflation, a global energy crisis and President Biden’s approval rating is practically subterranean, and a GOP donor like me should be feeling quite good.
But two months from Election Day, I am anything but happy with where things stand.
While the media have played up Republicans’ shrinking hopes for November, I remain optimistic that the GOP can win enough seats to capture the majority in both chambers. I’m proud to play a role in supporting candidates and the causes I believe in.
That said, I’m far from satisfied with how my money is being spent.
I continually hear how great the GOP candidate slate is this cycle. But if true, why are they constantly in need of financial rescue? National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chair Rick Scott’s recent defense of Mehmet Oz, who the latest polling shows is trailing his Democratic challenger by double digits in Pennsylvania, was far from convincing and quickly morphed into a telethon for small-dollar donations.
An avalanche of recent headlines has highlighted what can only be described as mismanagement at the top of the GOP campaign apparatus. The NRSC is quickly becoming a role model for how to squander a golden political opportunity.
All the GOP needs is one seat to take back control of the Senate, but even that modest goal looks increasingly out of reach as B-list nominees continue to flounder in winnable races. It’s starting to look a lot like 2010 out there.
And now, just when GOP spending should be ticking up to hammer Democrats and ensure conservative candidates take back Congress, the NRSC is canceling millions of dollars of TV ad buys in crucial battleground states and protesting that its cupboards are bare.
The cuts are unprecedented and worrisome. Despite months of record fundraising, the Senate Republican campaign arm finds itself outgunned on the airwaves. Donors are asking where the $173 million raised this cycle so far went.
Meanwhile, Democrats continue to rake in donations amid renewed voter enthusiasm in an environment increasingly defined by issues that Republicans gift-wrapped for them.
Perhaps, there’s a clever strategy at play here that is above my pay grade. Shifting money to the coordinated side and away from unaffiliated independent expenditure groups may stretch the NRSC’s limited resources. Still, as a donor, I can’t help but feel that money is being wasted on contests that should be easy layups and on reliably blue states where a Republican win is unlikely. Did I mention that Republicans need just one seat to take back the upper chamber?
There’s no excuse for fielding weak candidates in Arizona and Pennsylvania or attacking incumbents who stand the best chance of retaining an existing seat, but that’s the situation Republicans find themselves in. Political forecasters recently downgraded Republicans’ chances in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Utah – all easily winnable states. And the situations in Georgia and Arizona don’t look much better.
Candidate quality matters, it’s as simple as that, and no amount of money will convince swing voters in battleground states to accept a subpar candidate just because they have an “R” by their name.
I believe in conservative values and the Republican Party and am happy to support good candidates. But I didn’t sign up to throw money away on what appears to be little more than a loosely managed slush fund that runs dry at the worst possible moment. No doubt, the Senate Leadership Fund will ride to the rescue with an influx of cash to — it is hoped — pull struggling campaigns across the finish line, but it didn’t have to be this way.
The issues at the NRSC aren’t limited to financial management. There are also unforced errors that cast the whole operation in a poor light. Sen. Rick Scott’s tweet poking fun at President Biden for vacationing in Delaware instead of visiting the southern border is the latest example.
What sounds like a harmless political jab loses some of its resonance when it’s discovered that Scott was tweeting from a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy.
Maybe the positive political environment lulled Republicans into a state of complacency. Maybe people just made honest mistakes. I’m willing to give the party the benefit of the doubt up to a point. But as the errors and missteps compound, I worry we’re watching a historic opportunity slip through our fingers.
If the NRSC were a private company, its CEO would be under intense pressure to right the ship — and I’m not talking about his Italian yacht.