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House Republicans hopeful for fundraising boost

House Republicans hopeful for fundraising boost
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are looking to seize on their better-than-expected showing in this year’s election to get a fundraising boost from outside groups ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

Republicans have so far netted eight seats in the House this year and may still gain a few more. And while Democrats are poised to hold on to their majority in the next Congress, it will be significantly narrower than the one they had hoped for.

Business PACs and advocacy groups, meanwhile, are looking to build on the GOP’s momentum as they evaluate their giving strategies for 2022.

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Democrats barreled into Election Day expecting not only to hold the 232-197 House majority they won in 2018, but expand it. They targeted a handful of Republican-held seats, believing a wave of anti-Trump sentiment would help power their candidates to victory on Election Day.

But the election results yielded a different outcome. Despite President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE’s victory over President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE, Democrats failed to unseat a single Republican incumbent in the House and lost at least eight seats that they currently hold in the lower chamber.

“There’s a new dynamic because the majority is really close. In downtown PAC world, typically you flow money to the majority, chairmens, and you play it safe. I think it’s impossible now to not look at this situation and think where we give will not impact the majority,” a GOP strategist said.

At the same time, Democrats’ hopes of recapturing a majority in the Senate fell flat, with GOP incumbents in states like North Carolina, Maine, Montana and Iowa successfully fending off Democratic challengers. Both parties have now turned their attention to Georgia, where the balance of power in the Senate rests on two runoff elections.

The Republicans’ House wins have given the party a burst of momentum as they prepare to head into the new Congress. In an interview with The Washington Post last week, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight MORE (R-Calif.) vowed that the GOP would retake control of the House in 2022.

“We have never been stronger in the sense of what the future holds for us — we have never been in a stronger position,” McCarthy said. “We won this by adding more people to the party. And we won this in an atmosphere where we were the one group that everyone guaranteed we would lose. And we’re the ones who won.”

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Republicans are hoping that their prospects in 2022 will give them a fundraising edge as outside groups contemplate the possibility of a GOP-controlled House.

“It’s certainly easier now to go out and make the argument that, look, we’re only two years away from a Speaker McCarthy and a Republican Congress,” one GOP strategist said. “That seems to be the direction things are heading.”

But Democrats will also have the political might of the presidency to draw on. They believe that Biden, in particular, will prove helpful to the party’s down-ballot efforts.

Speaking to reporters last week, House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) acknowledged that her caucus may be “smaller now, but we still have the power of the majority.” She also pointed to Biden as a key asset for Democrats in Washington.

“Our leverage and our power is greatly enhanced by having a Democratic president in the White House, especially Joe Biden in the White House, who is the man,” Pelosi said.

Republican-leaning PACs gave big in the 2020 cycle and that’s likely to continue.

Pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List and its partner, Women Speak Out PAC, spent more than $52 million in the 2020 cycle and are eager to build on that momentum.

“We were so encouraged by the pro-life victories that we saw in the House. We’re up to 17 new pro-life women who are going to join 11 returning incumbents,” said Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications. “We’ll be looking to make sure those same women are elected in 2022 and increasing that margin so there is more representation of pro-life women in the Congress.”

Quigley added that they will work torward flipping the House in 2022 so there are “two pro-life Chambers.”

Another reliable Republican donor, the National Rifle Association, spent more than $30 million on the 2020 election and anticipates spending more on the Georgia Senate runoffs. But the pro-gun advocacy group said they have a long-standing policy of not discussing strategy with the press when asked about plans for 2022.

Americans for Prosperity Action, the super PAC linked to the network formed by billionare conversative donors Charles and David Koch, spent nearly $50 million on federal races in 2020. AFP Action supported two dozen House candidates, including one Democrat, Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas), in his primary.

“We’re not approaching our engagements in 2022 with a partisan majority mindset. Considering the successes we had this cycle — especially in races we jumped into in June of 2019 — we’re looking to invest early and to a robust degree in House races going forward,” said Nicole Tardif, communications director for AFP Action.

Other PACs are bipartisan-focused regardless of the tight margin Democrats hold in the House.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed 23 first-term Democrats in 2020, a controversial move that was met with criticism from McCarthy. The pro-business lobbying group also endorsed 29 House Republicans, all of whom won reelection.

It’s unclear if the Chamber plans to continue giving to both parties ahead of 2022.

Biden’s victory and the lack of a blue wave this cycle also makes bipartisan corporate giving more attractive.

“We’ve always supported both parties, and we’ll no doubt continue to,” said one corporate lobbyist. “The Republicans are traditionally, and continue to be, more business friendly. But with Biden’s win, don’t forget that the center-left Democratic establishment is back, and business largely feels comfortable with their presence.”

For some companies, the decision to focus their PAC contributions on flipping the House has been made more complicated in the Trump era.

Corporate PACs are steering away from giving to all Republicans on the basis that their policies are good for business, because their stances on social justice issues also have to align with the company’s values, sources told The Hill.

“There is increased pressure from internal employees and external activists for the business community to also consider the social positions, or perceived positions, of a policymaker before making a political contribution. Many are now quick to equate a contribution as an unequivocal endorsement of every position of that policymaker. This may be a distortion of reality, but unfortunately it is our new reality, and we only wish some business-friendly Republicans better understood that this is happening,” another corporate lobbyist told The Hill.