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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Does the RNC Deserve the Blame for Cuccinelli’s Loss?



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Arguments in favor of blaming the Republican National Committee for Ken Cuccinelli’s defeat:

* At the end of September, the RNC had $11.2 million in cash on hand.

* The RNC spent $3 million in Virginia developing its “precinct team model” instead of television advertising, where Cuccinelli was getting creamed every commercial break.

* The RNC spent $1.5 million in New Jersey in a race Christie was certain to win anyway, including a half-million dollars on minorities who were open to voting Republican.

Arguments against blaming the Republican National Committee for Ken Cuccinelli’s defeat:

* Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign was always likely to be outspent by Terry McAuliffe, but he and his campaign had to try to keep the margin as close as possible. Instead, the gap became gargantuan, $15 million. To his credit, Cuccinelli raised only slightly less than McDonnell raised four years ago, $20 million to McDonnell’s $21 million.

* If the polling had shown a closer race, the RNC undoubtedly would have committed more money. But only two out of 25 polls conducted in Virginia since mid-September showed McAuliffe leading by less than 5 points. Most had the Democrat leading by 7 to 9 points.

* The $9 million that the RNC spent on behalf of Bob McDonnell in 2009 was part of the Michael Steele’s big-borrowing, big-spending era, which took the committee from $23 million in the bank at the beginning of 2009 (mostly from transfers from unused funds of the McCain-Palin campaign) to $22 million in debt. Today the RNC has no debt.

* The RNC is a “hard money” institution, meaning there are limits on how much a donor can give. Virginia’s laws limiting donations and activity is much more lax, meaning both Cuccinelli and the state party were free to accept much larger donations. At any point, any wealthy Republican billionaire could have written a check for $10 million helping out Cuccinelli. For example, Bill Clinton wrote a check for $100,000 to McAuliffe.

* Next year, the RNC faces a gargantuan lift. There are a good half-dozen or so competitive Senate races against Democrat incumbents (Alaska, Arkansas, perhaps Colorado, Louisiana, possibly Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, possibly Oregon, possibly Virginia), open-seat Senate races in Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and West Virginia, and potentially vulnerable Senate incumbents to defend in Kentucky and Maine. Then they have competitive gubernatorial races against Democrat incumbents in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, and perhaps a few others, open-seat gubernatorial races in Arizona, Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Nebraska, and vulnerable gubernatorial incumbents to defend in Florida, Maine, Michigan, possibly Nevada, possibly New Mexico, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. And then there are the House races. Put simply, there are only so many races where the RNC can commit $5 million to 10 million.

* According to OpenSecrets.org, the DNC spent nothing or (depending on some late filing of forms) next to nothing on McAuliffe.


Tags: Ken Cuccinelli , RNC , Reince Priebus , Terry McAuliffe


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