Campaign 2010

Oct 15, 2012

House Republicans Triage and Retreat Begins

The Republican triage has begun.  Republicans are cutting off support for races or not playing in some competitive races as momentum shifts to Democrats and the Ryan-Romney drag weighs on Republicans running for Congress. As voters reject the toxic Tea Party agenda, Republicans are on defense and being forced to do triage, as they see poll numbers tumble and the tide turns against Republican incumbents and candidates.


Republicans claim they’re on offense and will pick up nearly 10 seats in 2012, but the reality is they’ve been forced on defense, abandoned some Republicans at the start and are in retreat.


Democrats are leading the generic congressional ballot and winning on message.


  • Democrats have a 4-point lead (47%-43%) in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. This is nearly identical to Democrats’ lead in August by 5 points (47%-42%) and comes after Democrats had only a 1-point lead in July.
  • A new NPR/Democracy Corps/Resurgent Republic poll shows voters prefer Democrats over Republicans for Congress by 3 points (48%-45%). In early September, this same poll showed Democrats and Republicans tied at 46%.
  • A recent Economist/YouGov poll showed voters prefer Democrats over Republicans for Congress by 5 points (46%-41%).
  • A George Washington University Politico poll found voters prefer Democrats for Congress over Republicans by 2 points (46%-44%).


Democratic candidates are also showing strength with 33 Democratic candidates tied or leading in public or internal polling.


Sure enough, the Republican brand is hurting Republicans under the sinking weight of the Tea Party. A Washington Post/ABC poll released October 3rd shows that 53 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of the Republican party. Even the Washington Post wrote, “The Republican Party’s brand continues to be, as former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said in the run up to the 2008 election, ‘dog food.’ In fact, the GOP brand is actually worse than it was four years ago.”


Republicans Do Triage or Leave Themselves Exposed. There is no doubt that Republicans are doing triage and pulling out of battleground races. In some places, they’re even leaving the districts of House Republican candidates without any support at all.


IA-01: The NRCC stopped airing TV ads against Congressman Bruce Braley. The NRCC named repeat challenger Ben Lange to its “Young Guns” program this summer only to abandon his campaign entering the most critical stretch of the election.


FL-22: Republican Leader Eric Cantor’s Super PAC YG Action Fund pulled its ads against Lois Frankel and shifted its resources to the extremely vulnerable Allen West. This comes as political analysts have shifted the ratings in Frankel’s favor.  Over the last two weeks, the Rothenberg Political Report moved this race from Lean Democrat to Democrat Favored, and the Cook Political Report and Roll Call each moved it from Lean Democrat to Likely Democrat.


Incumbents and Young Guns Left High and Dry. Republicans are giving up on some of their incumbents and some of their supposedly “top tier” Young Guns.


MD-06:  Republicans are not investing on the airwaves to support Congressman Roscoe Bartlett who has been named one of the most vulnerable Republicans in Congress and even Roll Call wrote recently that “Delaney is widely expected to win the race,” and that “outside Republican groups have shown no interest in aiding Bartlett’s campaign.” Roll Call also said: “If national Republicans or their aligned outside groups had seen evidence that this race was winnable, they might have reserved TV time. But none of them seems willing to gamble in the very expensive Washington, D.C., media market.”


FL-26: Republicans have given up on Congressman David Rivera. Rivera is in deep trouble as he faces separate federal investigations into his personal and campaign finances. Rivera has been named one of the most vulnerable Members of Congress and Roll Call noted recently: “The national party won't spend any money to help him…How bad have things gotten? Last week, the Miami Herald ran a story naming the GOP candidates looking to try to win the seat back in 2014. The message was sent to Rivera: Good riddance.” Joe Garcia leads Rivera in multiple recent polls including by 9 points (50-41%) in a House Majority PAC poll. Political analysts have also rapidly shifted the ratings in Garcia’s favor.


Young Guns: Not only have Republicans abandoned some of their incumbents, but at least 12 of the NRCC’s “Young Guns” are being left out in the cold. Despite the big talk from the NRCC about picking up seats and being on offense, they’re leaving several highly vaunted “Young Guns” to shoot with blanks including: Gary DeLong (CA-47), John Tavaglione (CA-41), Kim Vann (CA-03), Maggie Brooks (NY-25), Bill Driscoll (WA-06), John Koster (WA-01), Brendan Doherty (RI-01), Adam Hasner (FL-22), Joe Coors (CO-07), Jackie Walorski (IN-02), and Kevin Raye (ME-02).


Tide Turning Against Republicans. In races that are becoming increasingly competitive, Republicans are not covering their vulnerable Republicans – leaving them to fend for their themselves.


FL-10: The NRCC has not reserved TV time in FL-10 even as the tide is turning against Congressman Dan Webster. A recent poll shows Chief Val Demings is within striking distance and trails Webster by only 5 points (41%-46%). This race has also moved in favor of Demings with the Rothenberg Political Report and Cook Political Report shifting this race from Likely Republican to Lean Republican.


CA-10: This race is becoming increasingly competitive and Jose Hernandez is in a statistical tie with Congressman Jeff Denham (43%-45%) according to a poll from Hernandez’s campaign. Last week, the Cook Political Report moved this race from Lean Republican to Toss Up.


Saving Some of Their Own. Republicans are diving in quickly to save some of their own Members who they believed would be safe but are now tied and sinking.


CA-21: Despite the fact that Republicans believed this seat was safely Republican, Crossroads GPS recently reserved $600,000 to save this seat.


CA-36: Republicans believed Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack’s re-election was safe but are now scrambling to save her. The latest polling shows Ruiz with a slight lead over Bono Mack and now the NRCC is dumping over $600,000 into a race they previously thought they wouldn’t have to defend.


FL-02: Republicans are now spending in FL-02 to protect vulnerable incumbent Congressman Steve Southerland after polling showed the race tied. In what the Hotline called a “DCCC Sneak Attack,” Republicans believed they were safe but are now spending more than $150,000.


No Republican Super PAC Tsunami? House Republicans built their campaign strategy counting on a Super PAC tsunami a la 2010. But Republicans “are quietly frustrated by the lack of outside group spending in House races, with less than a month to go before Election Day.” Even a Republican strategist, Brad Todd, said, “One of the big stories of this election in the House is that the Democratic outside groups have been more aggressive and spent more money on control of the House than business and Republican groups have.”


As desperation mounts and Republicans realize they’re on the verge of significant losses, the Super PACs and outside groups have begun pouring money in. The problem they face is skyrocketing prices for TV airtime. As Roll Call wrote, in the Sacramento TV market for example, the cost per point earlier in the cycle was $510, and now outside groups would pay about $1,100 per point. For Republicans to match the DCCC in all districts we are spending in it would cost Republicans $20 million. For us to match the safe/Democratic districts the NRCC is playing in it would cost the DCCC less than $4 million.


Bottom line: With only 22 days left until Election Day, it’s clear that the Republicans are in triage mode and either conceding races are out of their reach or leaving their vulnerable incumbents exposed. This is just the first phase in the Republican retreat as the 2010 Tea Party tsunami is now receding and Republicans are backing out of races, spelling trouble in battleground districts across the country.