Saving up for 2022
Parties have begun raising money for midterm races
The midterm elections are more than a year away, but Democrats and Republicans are already in a race to raise funds for upcoming congressional campaigns. Democrats want to preserve and grow their slim, eight-seat lead in the House and win a true majority in the Senate, which they split 50-50 with Republicans. Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties in Democrats’ favor, but they don’t have enough votes to overcome filibusters.
In August, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) reported its best fundraising month yet during a nonelection year with $10 million to pour into the campaigns of its candidates. While 250,000 grassroots donors gave more than two-thirds of the monthly total, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did her part by transferring $800,000 from a campaign account to the DCCC. The committee now has just over $53 million on hand, but that is still $1 million less than its Republican counterpart reported last quarter.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has not yet released its August fundraising numbers. It bested the Democrats by nearly $9 million in donations for the second quarter, which ended in June. The NRCC enjoys a historical benefit, too: Typically, whichever party controls the White House loses congressional seats in midterm elections.
Amid a pandemic and struggling economy, why are donors opening their wallets? Many Democrats see winning midterm elections as a way to improve the government’s pandemic response. In this week’s recall election in California, most voters in the majority-blue state cited coronavirus response as a key issue. According to recent polling by the Public Policy Institute of California, Gov. Gavin Newsom survived the recall in part because voters approved of his decisions to reinstate mask mandates in schools and require vaccines for healthcare workers, similar to President Joe Biden’s policies.
National security concerns have energized Republican voters. A recent AP-NORC poll showed 84 percent of Republican voters disapproved of how Biden led the military withdrawal from Afghanistan as the Taliban took over the country. Legislators from both parties have criticized the president’s handling of the crisis. Democratic senators on military committees have promised to hold hearings on the withdrawal and find out what went wrong. Both parties often tap service members to run for office, but the recent events in Afghanistan might push potential candidates to the Republican side. The NRCC was recruiting hundreds of veterans for campaigns as early as April.
Five GOP senators have announced they will not run for reelection in 2022. Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania leave vulnerable seats in swing states. So far, seven Democrats and five Republicans are vying for Toomey’s seat.
The 2022 races foreshadow the next presidential campaign, as well. Congressional leaders and governors are beginning to test messaging for the 2024 race. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida attended a steak fry in Nebraska on Sunday, chatting with Republican voters while serving prime cuts. While two Democratic challengers in Florida have nearly $3 million each to run against DeSantis in his 2022 gubernatorial reelection campaign, the governor has already amassed $96 million from political action committees. When he spoke in Nebraska, DeSantis addressed Biden, not his Florida opponents, apparently positioning himself for the 2024 race.
While DeSantis might have his eyes set on the White House, the GOP continues to wait for former President Donald Trump to announce whether he will seek another term. At a recent 9/11 memorial event, he said he’s already made up his mind but could not reveal the decision yet due to campaign finance laws.
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