News & Politics

Democrats Shoveling Loads of Cash into Longshot Races

Tom Perez speaks during the general session of the DNC winter meeting in Atlanta, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Branden Camp)

Democratic donors all across the country are making contributions to candidates who are running in solidly Republican districts. It would seem on the surface that this is a waste of resources. Many of the districts mentioned in this TPM article have long been held by the GOP.

But perhaps more than the cash itself, the donations represent a desperate hope that there will be enough upsets in these longshot races for Democrats to take control of the House.

Examples include: a district home to the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium and held by the GOP since 1983; the South Carolina district of outgoing U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford; and a reliably Republican Southern California district that President Donald Trump won by 15 points.

All are places where Democrats are outraising their Republicans opponents — a feat that while perhaps not changing the conventional wisdom about their chances, is succeeding in giving their campaigns unusual viability. In Texas, 15 Democratic challengers running in Republican-held districts have so far raised at least $100,000. In 2014, only one cracked six figures.

The average cost of winning a House seat is more than $1 million. And in Texas, some candidates still lag substantially behind despite their early hauls in places where Republicans have been invincible.

But driving donors’ eagerness to open their wallets to longshot candidates, supporters say, is a mix of anti-Trump enthusiasm and optimism following upsets like Democrat Doug Jones’ last year in a Senate race in Alabama. Campaigns, meanwhile, say donors are simply responding to finally having better candidates in historically lopsided districts that previously attracted only fringe contenders who made little effort to professionally fundraise or run hard.

Jones won in Alabama solely because the GOP candidate, Roy Moore, refused to drop out of the race following testimonials describing his groping of teenage girls. Moore lost in one of the most Republican states in the union and Jones’ victory had nothing to do with “enthusiasm” or anti-Trump sentiment. Even Republican voters were repelled by the accusations against Moore.

But there is no doubt that the donations should worry Republicans. Democratic candidates will be extremely well funded this year, even though the Democratic National Committee is being heavily outraised by the RNC. The Dems’ online fundraising effort has been enormous and the grassroots are giving like never before. Couple that with independent spending for both parties soaring and come election day, literally anything could happen.

Democrats will probably not break through in any of the districts mentioned above. But those are the kinds of races you should be watching on election night. Any district Trump won by more than 10% should be an easy GOP win. If it isn’t, there may be a lot of Republican blood on the floor by the end of the evening.