House Republicans close money gap in hunt for the majority

House Republicans spent 2021 erasing Democrats’ fundraising advantage — now they are overtaking them.

New campaign finance reports this week paint an encouraging picture of the GOP's chances of recapturing the House majority. Buoyed by small-dollar donors, their candidates are outraising Democrats in several key races and turning a favorable political environment into a cash windfall with just nine months until Election Day.

A telling statistic: At least 53 Republicans raised over $500,000 last quarter, compared to 38 Democratic candidates, according to a POLITICO analysis of Federal Election Commission data. That's an unfamiliar gap for House Democrats, who have long enjoyed a financial edge. But Republicans have been steadily gaining on them for months.

In the third quarter of 2021, a roughly equal number of candidates (48 Republicans and 45 Democrats) from each party cleared the half-million mark. That was already a sign of GOP momentum as President Joe Biden's approval rating shrank. Back in the fourth quarter of 2019 — the same point in the last election cycle — some 60 Democrats raised more than $500,000, but only 27 Republicans did.

Republicans didn't need a cash influx to pick up a dozen seats: In 2020, their candidates were outspent on TV and still managed to cut down the Democratic advantage in the House. Not all of those candidates who raised large sums last quarter are in competitive races, but the fact that they have tapped the online fundraising spigot is an ominous sign for the Democratic majority.

Here are the other major takeaways from the latest round of campaign finance numbers in the battle for the House.

Some good news for Democrats: money in the bank

House Democratic incumbents still have a large cash-on-hand advantage in many key districts, including those held by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), who has a whopping $16.1 million; Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.), who has $5.5 million; and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), with $4.5 million.

And only a few of Democrats' most vulnerable incumbents were outraised by a GOP challenger: Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Rep. Greg Stanton (D-Ariz.). Meanwhile, Democratic candidates also managed to raise more than GOP Reps. Nicole Malliotakis in New York and Andy Harris in Maryland — two prime pickup Democratic pickup opportunities in blue states.

The GOP has a big advantage in open battleground seats

GOP candidates were the top-raising candidates in many of the most competitive open seats, including Colorado's newly drawn 8th district and the districts held by retiring Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) and Charlie Crist (D-Fla.).

The reports also made clear that swing-seat retirements have left Democrats in a tough place.

In the northwest Illinois district of retiring Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos, Republican Esther Joy King raised $640,000 but no Democratic candidate cleared $115,000. In Rep. Ron Kind’s (D-Wis.) now-open battleground, Republican Derrick Van Orden raised over $830,000, more than double the total of any of the Democratic candidates.

Another problem spot for Democrats: the purple South Texas district that Rep. Vicente Gonzalez left open when he moved to a neighboring district. Republican Monica De La Cruz raised some $560,000 last quarter; no Democrat raised more than $110,000.

Republican impeachment backers stock their accounts for primary battles

None of the seven pro-impeachment Republicans seeking reelection were outraised by a challenger. Many or all will have tough primaries to contend with, but money shouldn't be a problem for them.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) pulled in the most, with a staggering $2 million, nearly five times as much as challenger Harriet Hageman. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who still hasn’t revealed whether he will retire in 2022 and could be in a member-vs-member race with Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.), raised $726,000.

Fellow Michigan Republican Rep. Peter Meijer raised $529,000. Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) was the lowest of the pack, with a $155,000 quarter — but he’s got some $1.9 million in the bank. Former President Donald Trump endorsed one of his challengers, state Rep. Russell Fry, on Tuesday.

Stark cash disparities emerge in incumbent-versus-incumbent races

Some 10 incumbents are potentially facing off in member-versus-member primaries, thanks to redistricting drawing them into the same seats — and most are not evenly matched financially.

In West Virginia, GOP Rep. David McKinley trounced fellow Republican Rep. Alex Mooney in fourth-quarter fundraising, raising $1.1 million to Mooney’s $200,000 — though Mooney does still have more cash on hand.

In Michigan, Democratic Rep. Haley Stevens outraised Democratic Rep. Andy Levin and has some $900,000 more in cash-on-hand. In Illinois, Democratic Rep. Sean Casten doubled the haul of fellow Democratic Rep. Marie Newman and has $1 million more in the bank.

And in suburban Atlanta, Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) outraised Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) by $315,000 and she has about $450,000 more in her campaign account.

Another cash dash to watch: In South Texas, embattled Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar outraised his liberal challenger Jessica Cisneros, $697,000 to $362,000, ahead of their March 1 primary.

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