GOP Stunned After Democrats Report Report Historic Numbers in Key Metric.
Democratic candidates are reporting historic early fundraising totals, alarming GOP strategists and raising the prospect that 2018 could feature the most expansive House battlefield in years.
Animated by opposition to President Donald Trump and the Republican congressional majorities, at least 162 Democratic candidates in 82 GOP-held districts have raised over $100,000 so far this year, according to a POLITICO analysis of the latest FEC data. That’s about four times as many candidates as House Democrats had at this point before the 2016 or 2014 elections, and it’s more than twice as many as Republicans had running at this point eight years ago, on the eve of capturing the House in the 2010 wave election.
Nearly three dozen Republican incumbents were outraised by Democratic challengers in the third quarter of this year – a stunning figure. Nine GOP incumbents already trail a Democratic opponent in cash on hand, increasing the likelihood that many veteran incumbents will face tough opposition for the first time in years.
The Democrats’ fundraising success, especially from a glut of candidates who have never run for office before, is unsettling to those charged with protecting the GOP majority.
“That’s something that should get every Republican’s attention in Washington,” said Jason Roe, a Republican strategist who works on House races. “These first-timers are printing money."
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who has never gotten less than 58 percent of the vote in 12 terms in Congress, is among those suddenly facing cash-flush opposition. Three Democratic opponents outraised Frelinghuysen in the third quarter, and each has already brought in more money than any challenger Frelinghuysen has faced in a quarter-century.
In Texas, GOP Rep. John Culberson, whose Houston-area district attracted little attention from either party before Hillary Clinton carried it in 2016, finished the summer with less campaign cash than two different Democratic opponents.
The long slate of well-funded Democratic candidates, coupled with a favorable political environment and poor polling numbers for Trump, is raising Democratic hopes of erasing the GOP’s 24-seat majority.
“The Democrats in 2017 are starting to very much resemble the Republicans in 2009,” said former Rep. Steve Israel, who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2012 and 2014. “People are talking about a wave developing, but in order to even begin to think about a wave, you have to be in a position to take advantage in [case of] a wave. And Democrats are clearly in that position.”