Hint: They will use it as they have since 2014, and it could deliver a midterm surprise against the RNC’s woefully underfunded counterpart. In my book Going Red, I described the use of the Republican Leadership Initiative between those midterms and the 2016 election cycle to emulate the Barack Obama campaign’s organizational structure, only this time under the control of a party rather than just a candidate. NBC News decided to delve into the RNC’s plans for its massive fundraising advantage, and found out that the RNC has committed even more funds to building an army of people and an arsenal of data for 25 battleground states:
Flush with cash and bracing for a challenging midterm election season, the Republican National Committee is preparing to deploy more staffers on the ground in key races than it has at this point in any election in the party’s history.
The RNC will add an additional 170 permanent staffers to its field program by the end of March, more than doubling the number already in the field to over 300. And the party expects to add 200 more before before the start of the summer.
“Our record-breaking fundraising has fueled our ability to continue our permanent, data-driven field program in twenty-five states, including every battleground state,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement to NBC News.
“This is the largest field program in our party’s history. Our infrastructure, combined with on-the-ground enthusiasm for President Trump and Republican policies puts us in prime position to defend our majorities in 2018,” she added.
The RNC’s ability to fund this kind of effort centrally stems from its superior fundraising efforts. Reince Priebus had a stellar record on raising funds, and Ronna Romney McDaniel has managed to pick up the pace in what should be a relatively difficult midterm environment. She racked up over $130 million in contributions in 2017, a record for off-year party fundraising, and finished January by raising more money than the previous month. Even with these investments in party infrastructure, the RNC has no debt and over $40 million in the bank.
What are Democrats doing? Er …. rebuilding their infrastructure, DNC associate chair Jamie Harrison tells MSNBC. Harrison alludes to the fact that the Obama campaign essentially cannibalized the DNC in 2008 and 2012, forcing them to start from scratch in 2014, but he claims that the committee is now sending out millions of dollars in grants to state parties. That didn’t impress the host, who replied that Republicans have been working on this for years, and notes that the DNC has claimed to be spending funds in the past that it turned out they didn’t have in the first place:
Just how reliable are Harrison’s claims? His boss, Tom Perez, got caught last week by the Washington Post telling a two-Pinocchio whopper that their fundraising in January set new DNC records:
“We raised more money in January, for instance, of 2018 than any January in our history. So if the question is, ‘Do we have enough money to implement our game plan?’ Absolutely.” …
Perez said the DNC set a new fundraising record for the month of January. But his spokesman backed off from those comments when we reached out with FEC figures that told a different story. Otherwise, Perez was headed for Four Pinocchios.
Although we don’t award Pinocchios when a politician admits error, the response from Perez’s spokesman raised new questions. The DNC now uses monthly fundraising totals that merge its own numbers with whatever is raised by a different entity called the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund. …
This elaborate construct may help the DNC chairman save face, but only by sacrificing clarity and hampering voters’ understanding of campaign finance. We were on the fence between Two and Three Pinocchios for this one, but in the end Perez’s revised statement merits Two Pinocchios. The numbers add up, but the spin is misleading.
The DNC’s FEC reports tell a much different story. They’re getting outraised by the RNC and they’re burning through their cash faster too. Their cash-on-hand position in the most recent report only barely outstripped their outstanding debt. With those kinds of numbers, the DNC will not have the resources to rebuild infrastructure in any meaningful way, and the RNC will continue to develop their advantage in organizing on the ground.
That may not be enough to hold off Democrats in House races in a midterm if voters turn even more sour on Donald Trump, of course. But it does mean that the RNC is building in an advantage for Republicans who can keep their races close in November, and that might be enough to stymie Democrats where it counts.