Hopeful Republicans in the Senate are being crushed by the airwaves across the country as their national campaign fund pulls ads and is running out of money — leading some campaign advisers to ask where all the money went and to. demand an audit of the committee’s finances, according to Republican strategists involved in the discussions.
In a highly unusual move, the National Republican Senatorial Committee canceled bookings worth about $10 million this week, including in the critical states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona. A spokesperson said the NRSC will not abandon those races, but will prioritize ad spots shared with campaigns and benefit from discounted rates. Still, the cancellations lose cheaper prices that came from early booking, and better budgeting could have covered both.
“The fact that they canceled these reservations was a huge problem — you can’t get them back,” said a Senate Republican strategist, who like others speaks on condition of anonymity to discuss internal affairs. “You can’t win elections if you don’t have the money to run ads.”
The NRSC’s withdrawal came after months of raising record fundraisers, more than $173 million so far this election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission’s revelations. But the committee has sifted through almost everything, with the NRSC’s cash dwindling to $28.4 million at the end of June.
As of that month, the committee disclosed that it had spent just $23 million on advertising, of which more than $21 million was on text messages and more than $12 million on American Express credit cards. payments, the ultimate purpose of which is not clear from the deposits. The commission has also spent at least $13 million on consultants, $9 million on debt payments and more than $7.9 million on mailing list rental, campaign finance data shows.
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“If they were a corporation, the CEO would be fired and investigated,” said a national Republican consultant who worked on Senate racing. “The way this money has been burned, there must be an audit or investigation because we are not going to make it to the Senate now and this money is wasted. It’s a rip off.”
The chairman of the NRSC, Florida Senator Rick Scott, has already brought fire to fellow Republicans for running ads featuring him on camera and releasing his own policy agenda that became a Democratic punching bag — leading to jokes that “NRSC” stood for “National Rick Scott Committee” in an effort to fuel his own supposed presidential ambitions.
Other spending decisions, such as investing a total of about $1 million in reliably blue Colorado and Washington earlier this month, sparked new questions after the committee flipped and canceled purchases on nuclear battlefields.
The NRSC has invested heavily in expanding digital fundraising and building a database of small donors. But giving online to Republicans, not just the NRSC, slumped earlier this year due to a combination of inflation, changes in Facebook’s advertising policies, concerns about emails getting into spam filters, and complacency with an expected Republican surge. Some Republicans also suspect that former President Donald Trump’s relentless pitches and money hoarding have exhausted the party’s online donor base.
The NRSC still has tens of millions of dollars in reserved airtime, and the next filing, which covers July and is expected by the FEC on Saturday, will see millions more in ad spend. On Friday, the NRSC said it has rebooked airtime in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona.
“Our goal was to keep our candidates afloat and get them to still compete in all of our top states,” said NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline. “So if the big expenses start now, we have a fighting chance.”
That big spend comes from a super PAC aligned with Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who this week announced a whopping $28 million in rescue efforts in Ohio, where Republican nominee JD Vance won a whopping $1 billion in the second quarter. million and spent less than $400,000 on advertising.
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The super PAC, known as the Senate leadership fund, also moved up three weeks in Pennsylvania, adding $9.5 million for a total of $34 million. Recent investigations show that Keystone State’s Senate race is drifting toward Democratic Lt. gov. John Fetterman on the Republican nominee, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.
McConnell himself acknowledged the challenge of regaining the majority of the chamber, telling reporters in Kentucky on Thursday that the House was more likely to turn around. “Candidate quality has a lot to do with the result,” he said, according to NBC Newsa comment that was widely seen as a swipe at some of the primary winners and their lagging fundraising performance.
The NRSC chose not to pick favorites in this year’s primaries, a hiatus from the past decade as the committee worked to avoid irregular nominees that cost the party victories in 2010 and 2012. Many of this year’s Republican candidates weren’t candidates before and stemmed from nasty, expensive primaries that flooded their favorable ratings. A series of recent polls showed Republican candidates were trailing or deadlocked on many battlefields with well-funded Democratic opponents.
Democrats spend more than double than Republicans in the Arizona Senate race; by nearly two-to-one in Nevada and by four-to-one in Ohio, according to media tracking company AdImpact. Republicans in Georgia also spend about $14 million.
“Everything came together at once, and everyone woke up like, ‘Oh my God,'” said a Republican consultant. “It’s been an absolutely disastrous two weeks for GOP Senate things on all fronts.”
After The Washington Post discussed this story with the NRSC on Friday, five Senate campaigns rolled up their sleeves to praise the committee’s help.
“They are focused on taking the fight to the Democrats every day,” Gail Gitcho said of Herschel Walker’s Georgia campaign. “Whoever says otherwise is crazy.”
Zack Roday with Joe O’Dea’s Senate campaign in Colorado added, “The NRSC has been a great partner, everything we’ve asked for.”
Democrats are pointing to signs of a newly strengthened base and a national political environment that is at least less bad for them. The party in power usually loses ground during the midterms.
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JB Poersch, chairman of the main Democratic Senate super PAC, pointed to the Jan. 6 hearings, recent mass shootings, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Supreme Court’s overthrow of Roe v. Wade as changing dynamics over the past two months.
“It’s surprising and says a lot about the Republican brand that their candidates have struggled to raise money,” Poersch said. “With extreme candidates and extreme positions, Republican donors may feel these candidates are out of step with where they are. Perhaps voters feel the same way.”
Vance’s disappointing financial report made clear the new urgency for air support from the McConnell-aligned super PAC, said a person familiar with the schedule. The size of the purchase reflects the cost of statewide advertising in Ohio with its multiple media markets, and that Republicans view the state as both a win-win and a must-win. An affiliated nonprofit known as One Nation is spending an additional $3.8 million to help Vance against his Democratic rival, Rep. Tim Ryan.
Several public polls recently showed Ryan was in charge, and internal Republican investigations found Vance to be in an even bigger deficit, according to people familiar with the findings.
A campaign adviser to Vance rejected suggestions that the super PAC’s intervention showed weakness, saying the race would always be competitive.
“If the Washington pundit thinks Trump won the state by 8, so it should be a slam dunk, they are seriously wrong,” the adviser said, referring to Trump’s 2020 Ohio victory margin. race they can win.”
Vance profited in the primary of about $10 million through an allied super PAC funded by technology billionaire Peter Thiel. But people involved in the race said it’s unclear whether Thiel, whose past style has been to invest early and then bend, will put money behind Vance in the general election. Thiel also funded the Arizona Senate bid for Republican candidate Blake Masters, his former employee.
A spokesperson for Thiel declined to comment.
The Senate leadership fund, which typically expands spending in the last stretch after Labor Day, ended June with more than $100 million in the bank. As of September, the PAC has set aside $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.