Political organizations working to maintain the Republican Party’s Senate majority raised $31.6 million in 2017 – a record amount for a non-election year.
President Trump’s low approval rating could cause problems for Republicans, but they are at somewhat of an advantage in that they are defending just 8 seats in the Senate (compared to 26 held by Democrats). A recent Gallup poll puts Trump’s approval rating at 36%, which for this stage of his presidency is the worst approval rating of any president since Harry Truman.
GOP donors are providing a steady stream of cash because they understand that “the Senate majority represents a critical firewall if we run into trouble this fall,” explains Steven Law, who oversees a number of political organizations allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Donors are “disappointed” that Congress hasn’t been able to do away with Obamacare, but continue to support McConnell as an “indispensable” figure in accomplishing the GOP’s goals.
“Contrary to the brief and loud boasts of one Mr. Stephen K. Bannon, our donors were never especially attracted to his rhetoric and nor were they anything but supportive of our mission,” says Law. The groups represented by Law, including One Nation, American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS, and the Senate Leadership Fund, have 10% more in cash reserves than at this point during the last election cycle – starting the year with a collective total of nearly $24 million.
A CNN report from last November showed the Republican National Committee with $40 million more in the bank than the Democratic National Committee, which according to reports is having a hard time finding cash.
“Donors are refusing to write checks…operatives worry they won’t have the resources to build the infrastructure they need to compete effectively in next year’s midterms and in the run-up to 2020,” reported Politico last October. For the first time in decades, DNC members have been asked to personally contribute $1,000 to the organization.
The DNC is still in the process of rebuilding following a number of scandals and the party’s devastating loss to Donald Trump. As of last November, the party had just $5 million in the bank with $3 million in loans.
“Donors…are so over the party,” complains Nebraska party chair Jane Kleeb. “Everybody thinks that some magic three-page document and some magic tagline is going to turn everything around for us. But this is very typical work.”
High profile party officials, including Obama, are avoiding the organization. Even potential presidential candidates are refusing to sign up for fundraising events.
But it is not just a fundraising problem the DNC is facing. The organization also has to rebuild trust following the email hack that exposed internal bias in favor of Hillary Clinton and led to the ousting of former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Leading the rebuilding effort is Tom Perez, a former Labor Department secretary who is new to party politics. Despite no previous fundraising experience, Perez has spent months on the road searching for new donors and trying to bring disillusioned donors back to the party.
“With 2018’s midterms presenting a clear opportunity for Democrats to leap forward, the worry is that they simply may not be prepared in time,” reports Politico.
Winning won’t be easy or cheap, Perez tells potential donors, but this isn’t a social club, and donors must participate if they want the party to succeed.
Donors insist they must see a clear direction from the DNC before they are willing to write checks. “You can’t just go to [donors] and say…’Support me, I’m the DNC.’ You have to rebuild the credibility,” said one longtime donor.
Individual Democratic candidates and the DCCC seem to be doing well, but the DNC’s failure to keep up threatens to inhibit crucial organization efforts throughout the country.