They should be, though I bet they wish they didn’t have to be at this point in the cycle.
Republican strategists are warning that some of the party’s veteran House incumbents aren’t adequately preparing for the 2018 election, putting the GOP majority at risk by their failure to recognize the dangerous conditions facing them.
Nearly three dozen Republicans were outraised by their Democratic challengers in the most recent fundraising quarter. Others, the strategists say, are failing to maintain high profiles in their districts or modernize their campaigns by using data analytics in what is shaping up as a stormy election cycle.
“There are certainly incumbent members out there who need to work harder and raise more money if they want to win,” said Corry Bliss, executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, the House GOP’s top super PAC. “They’re fundamentally not prepared for how they’re about to be attacked.”
Bliss declined to identify specific members who appear to be lagging, but the super PAC’s recent actions speak loudly. CLF recently opened new field offices in the districts of Texas Rep. John Culberson and New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance, both veteran incumbents who have cruised to reelection without serious opposition in recent years. But Culberson and Lance have raised less money than any Republicans running for reelection in Clinton districts, alarming GOP strategists.
“We’re trying to do a better job in fundraising,” Lance said in an interview. “We’re something like 55 percent ahead of where we were at this time two years ago, and we’re doing a better job, and obviously [we] want to continue with that.”
Lance said the recent gubernatorial and legislative elections in New Jersey made fundraising “a tad bit more difficult” this year. But his campaign also noted that Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno still carried Lance’s district in the governor’s race despite losing statewide by double-digits.
Culberson, who outspent his 2016 Democratic opponent roughly 20-to-1 but won just 56 percent of the vote, was outraised in the most recent quarter by two Democratic challengers.
“Culberson’s problem — and other congressmen like him — lies more with motivating their own base, because if they can’t deliver their own conservative agenda, it’s 100 percent a problem for them,” said Luke Macias, a Republican consultant based in Texas.
“A lot of people feel like he’s not as connected to his district and he doesn’t spend as much time there as he could,” Macias said. “That’s a common criticism from political activists, Republican and Democrat, across the board.”
Democrats say it’s a sign of GOP weakness to have the super PAC showing up in their neighborhood the year before the election.
“It reflects that this district is looking for new leadership and Republicans have a reason to be worried,” said Alex Triantaphyllis, one of the Democratic challengers who outraised Culberson last quarter. “Culberson has not been engaged with this community … he’s focused more on upholding national Republican ideology.”
“A lot of people feel like he’s not as connected to his district and he doesn’t spend as much time there as he could”. Oy. And that’s what a Republican is saying. To be fair, the DCCC has an organizer on the ground in CD07 as well, so in some sense this is just parity. The CLF also has a presence in CD23, which is a swing district in any cycle. And there’s some very early polling evidence to suggest that Culberson will need all the help he can get. I hope that when all is said and done we at least get a decent account of what did and didn’t work to generate votes in this district.