In quest for majority, Dems swarm McCarthy’s home state

In quest for majority, Dems swarm McCarthy’s home state
© Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea GOP leader says he had 'a hard time' believing Pelosi The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi says House will move forward with impeachment MORE’s (R-Calif.) chances of ascending to the Speakership appear to rely increasingly on voters in his home state, where Republicans and Democrats are vying for control of seven seats held by GOP incumbents.

Democrats need to reclaim a net of 23 seats to win control of the House. All seven of the California districts favored Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Saagar Enjeti ponders Hillary Clinton's 2020 plans Political ad spending set to explode in 2020 MORE over Donald Trump in the 2016 election.

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Democrats hope Trump and his anemic approval ratings are but one of a series of headwinds that will stymie Republican candidates in those races, and McCarthy’s hopes of becoming Speaker.

A massive influx of money, both to candidates and outside groups, has raised Republican fears that they may be outspent in the race’s final weeks.

“Mimi Walters has tied herself to Donald Trump with vote after vote after vote,” Katie Porter, a law professor who is challenging the Republican representative in an Orange County district, told The Hill in a recent interview. “Our job is to make sure people know her voting record.”

All told, Democratic candidates and their supportive outside groups will have spent $35 million on television advertising between August and the November elections.

That’s a $7 million advantage over the amount Republican candidates and their supporters have dedicated to television time in the same period.

In Southern California, polls conducted by Siena College for The New York Times show Democrats leading in races for seats held Walters, who is seeking another term, and Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaDuncan Hunter to plead guilty to campaign finance violations Why the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy Elijah Cummings, native son of Baltimore, gets emotional send-off from Democratic luminaries MORE (R), who is retiring.

Rep. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherGeorge Papadopoulos launches campaign to run for Katie Hill's congressional seat The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Ex-GOP lawmakers are face of marijuana blitz MORE (R) is tied with his Democratic rival, while Rep. Steve Knight (R) holds just a 2-point lead over his challenger.

A Monmouth University poll shows former Assemblywoman Young Kim (R) leading philanthropist Gil Cisneros (D), 49 percent to 43 percent, in another Los Angeles-area district.

No reliable public surveys have been taken in districts held by Reps. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamEx-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Former GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company TikTok faces lawmaker anger over China ties MORE (R) and David ValadaoDavid Goncalves ValadaoCalifornia Republican ousted in 2018 announces rematch for House seat The 8 House Republicans who voted against Trump’s border wall The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — The political currents that will drive the shutdown showdown MORE (R), both in the Central Valley.

Democratic candidates have reserved more television time than their Republican rivals in all seven races, leaving Republican outside groups to pick up the slack.

“The disparity means that Democrats are jazzed to write checks. The Republicans, not as much,” said John Pitney, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College and a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “It is a huge problem for Republicans.”

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the outside group tied to House Republican leadership, is shouldering the bulk of the GOP’s burden.

The group has reserved or spent $19 million in advertising in the last three months of the race, according to sources watching the television market, including $5 million in time in the Los Angeles market that the group can use for whichever race is in most need of help.

By contrast, the National Republican Congressional Committee has reserved or spent just $2.6 million — including an additional $600,000, reserved Tuesday, to aid Walters in Orange County.

On the Democratic side, a handful of groups are sharing the spending burden.

The House Majority PAC has reserved or spent $12 million on television so far, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has blocked off $6.7 million in television time.

Groups including Priorities USA Action, the League of Conservation Voters and Tom Steyer’s NextGen are spending heavily on mail and digital advertising.

A review of records filed with the Federal Election Commission shows Republican groups are spending on mail and digital campaigns on behalf of only three candidates: Denham, Knight and Kim.

“I think we are seeing early signs of a strategic retreat by Republicans from Southern California seats, where they have fewer incumbents and where enormous media markets make big campaigns very costly,” said Thad Kousser, a political scientist at the University of California-San Diego.

“They may be marshaling their resources to defend GOP incumbents in the Central Valley,” Kousser said.

In a potential sign of just how much danger those Central Valley Republicans face, Democrat Josh Harder, who has already outspent Denham on television, said Monday he had raised $3.5 million in the past three months, a jaw-dropping sum for a first-time candidate.

Other Democratic candidates such as Porter, challenging Walters, and Katie Hill, running against Knight, are expected to turn in monster fundraising performances of their own.

“It seems that hatred is a very powerful fundraising tool,” said David Gilliard, a Republican strategist who advises several California candidates.

“These fundraising numbers have nothing to do with the quality of the individual candidates involved and everything to do with hatred for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments MORE, a deep-rooted hatred that has continued to build since Election Day 2016,” he said.