In a highly unusual move, the national Republican Senatorial Caucus this week canceled about $10 million worth of reservations, including in key states Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona. A spokeswoman said the NRSC is not abandoning those races, but preferring ad spots shared with campaigns to benefit from discounted rates. However, cancellations lose the cheaper rates that come from booking in advance, and better budgets can include both.
“The fact that they canceled these reservations is a big problem — you can’t get them back,” said one Senate Republican strategist. “You can’t win an election if you don’t have money to run ads.”
According to Federal Election Commission disclosures, the NRSC pulled back by raising $173 million so far this election cycle. But the group burned through almost all of it, and by the end of June the NRSC’s cash was down to $28.4 million.
As of that month, the group revealed it spent just $23 million on ads, with more than $21 million going to text messages and more than $12 million to American Express credit cards. The payments, the ultimate purpose of which is not clear from the filings. Campaign finance data shows the group spent at least $13 million on consultants, $9 million on debt payments and more than $7.9 million on mailing lists.
“If they were a corporation, the CEO would be fired and investigated,” said a national Republican consultant who works on Senate races. “There needs to be an audit or an investigation into the way this money was burned, because we’re not going to go to the Senate now, this money has been wasted. It’s a rip-off.
NRSC’s chairman, Florida Sen. Rick Scott is already getting heat from fellow Republicans to run. Advertisements featuring him on camera and published his own policy agenda that became the Democratic Party’s punching bag — “NRSC” stands for “National Rick Scott Group“In an attempt to fuel his own presumed presidential ambitions.
Other spending decisions earlier this month, such as putting about $1 million dollars into reliably blue Colorado and Washington, prompted new questions after the team turned around and canceled purchases in key battlegrounds.
NRSC invested heavily in expanding its digital fundraising and building a database of small-dollar donors. But online giving for Republicans, not just the NRSC, suffered a setback earlier this year from what advisers said was a combination of inflation, changes in Facebook advertising policies and concerns about emails. Spam filters, and complacency with the expected Republican wave. Some Republicans are also skeptical of former President Donald Trump Nonstop fundraising pitches And the fundraiser has exhausted the party’s online donor base.
The NRSC still has tens of millions of dollars in reserved airtime, and its next filing covers July and is due with the FEC on Saturday, showing millions more in ad spending. On Friday the NRSC said it had rescheduled airtime in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona.
“Our goal is to keep our candidates afloat and get them to the point where they’re still in the game in all of our states,” said NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline. “So we have a fighting chance when the big spending starts.”
That big spending comes from a super PAC affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which this week announced a $28 million recovery effort in Ohio, where Republican candidate JD Vance raised a dismal $1 million in the second quarter. And has spent less than $400,000 on advertising.
The super PAC, known as the Senate Leadership Fund, increased its spending in Pennsylvania for three weeks, adding $9.5 million there, for a total of $34 million. Recent polls show the Keystone State’s Senate race swinging more toward Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman than popular doctor Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee.
McConnell acknowledged the challenge of regaining the chamber’s majority, telling reporters in Kentucky on Thursday that he wants to flip the House. “The quality of the candidate has a lot to do with the outcome,” he said. According to NBC NewsA widely-watched look at some of the primary winners and their underwhelming fundraising performance.
While the committee has worked over the past decade to avoid candidates outside the mainstream, which led to party victories in 2010 and 2012, the NRSC has opted not to pick favorites in this year’s primaries. Many of this year’s Republican candidates haven’t run for office before and are emerging Bad, expensive primaries That left their positive ratings underwater. A string of recent polls have shown Republican candidates trailing or in tight heats with well-funded Democratic opponents in many battleground states.
Democrats spend more than twice as much as Republicans in Arizona Senate races; Nearly two-to-one in Nevada and four-to-one in Ohio, according to media tracking firm AdImpact. Republicans are spending about $14 million in Georgia.
“Everything came together at once, and everybody went, ‘Oh my God,'” said one Republican consultant. “It’s been an absolutely disastrous two weeks for GOP Senate affairs on all fronts.”
Five Senate campaigns praised the group’s help after The Washington Post discussed the story with the NRSC on Friday.
“They’re focused on bringing the struggle to the Democrats every day,” said Gail Kittso of Herschel Walker’s campaign in Georgia. “Anyone who says otherwise is an idiot.”
Jack Roday, with Joe O’Dea’s Senate campaign in Colorado, added, “The NRSC has been a great partner, everything we’ve asked for.”
Democrats point to signs of a newly energized base and a national political climate that, at least, The less bad for them. The ruling party usually loses seats in by-elections.
JP Boersch, head of the main Democratic Senate super PAC, pointed to the January 6 hearings, recent mass shootings, deflationary legislation and Supreme Court overturns. Roe v. Wade The last couple of months have been changing the dynamics.
“It’s surprising and says a lot about the brand of the Republican Party that their candidates are struggling to raise money,” Poersch said. “With radical candidates and radical positions, Republican donors may find these candidates out of place. Maybe voters feel the same way.
Vance’s disappointing financial report touched off a new rush for air support for the McConnell-aligned super PAC, said a person familiar with the planning. The size of the buy reflects statewide ad spending in Ohio, with its many media markets, and Republicans viewing the state as winnable and must-win. An affiliated nonprofit called One Nation is spending an additional $3.8 million against Vance’s Democratic challenger, Rep. Tim Ryan.
Several public opinion polls have recently shown Ryan in the lead, and internal Republican surveys have found Vance at an even larger deficit, according to people familiar with the findings.
A Vance campaign adviser dismissed suggestions that the super PAC’s involvement showed weakness, saying the race will always be competitive.
“If Washington pundits think Trump won the state by 8, they’re sorely mistaken,” the consultant said, referring to Trump’s 2020 Ohio victory. They believe this is a competition they can win.
Vance initially benefited from about $10 million from an affiliated super PAC funded by tech billionaire Peter Thiel. But people in the race say it’s unclear whether Thiel, whose style in the past has been to invest early and bow out later, will put money behind Vance in the general election. Thiel also funded the Arizona Senate bid of his former employee, Republican candidate Blake Masters.
A spokesman for Thiel declined to comment.
The Senate Leadership Fund, which typically expands spending in a final stretch after Labor Day, ended June with more than $100 million in the bank. Beginning in September, the PAC allocated $14.4 million in Arizona, $37.1 million in Georgia, $15.1 million in Nevada, $27.6 million in North Carolina, $15.2 million in Wisconsin and $7.4 million in Alaska.
Michael Scherer contributed to this report.