The Campaign Spot

How Do You Find the Most Underfunded 20?

Over on the home page, I take a look at 20 House races where a donation to a GOP candidate might make the biggest difference.

The piece was partially inspired by readers who write in to me, saying they have a limited amount to donate and want to make sure they get the most “bang for the buck.” Now, I don’t endorse (nor do I have a hand in National Review’s endorsements), nor do I think I’m here to tell you who to vote for, and I figure the same thing goes for telling you which candidates deserve donations. You guys don’t need me telling you how to spend your own money.

(By the way, have you subscribed to the magazine and NRO Digital? Bought your tickets for the NR cruise? Donated to our fundraising drive? Sponsored our advertisers? Okay, other than that, I don’t tell you how to spend your own money.)

But not all races are created equal, and certain House races fit a certain profile — a promising GOP candidate, a district with demographics that make a GOP win a possibility, and a Democratic incumbent with some vulnerabilities but with enormous cash reserves. In most of these cases, I would argue that the Republican challenger doesn’t need to outraise the incumbent, just to raise enough so that they can make sure their message gets out on a comparable scale. Other factors (dissatisfaction with the state of the economy, anger over health care, highly motivated GOP voters) should be enough to put them over the top.

Obviously, self-funders who could write themselves a check were off the list. I didn’t want to pick promising candidates who faced truly enormous financial disparities — say, Anna Little, who faces a 256-to-1 ratio with longtime New Jersey incumbent Frank Pallone — and looked for candidates who had already demonstrated some ability to raise funds but who had spent their reserves during competitive primaries. In some of these races, the issue of funds is fundamental because of the high cost of television advertising in that district. After chewing over the issue with consultants and strategists who are watching this year’s House races closely, I came up with those 20.

I’m sure a lot of folks can make a strong case for some other ones; also, it’s worth noting that these races are constantly changing and evolving. A few months ago, Renee Ellmers’s bid against Rep. Bob Etheridge, North Carolina Democrat, probably wouldn’t have made the list; one “who are you?” neck-grabbing encounter and a subsequent poll changed the dynamic of that race. Between now and November, one of these candidates may implode, or other House races may suddenly appear much more competitive. Perhaps I’ll do a sequel.

UPDATE: I figure this morning 20 campaigns are happy to be on the list and getting the attention of NRO readers, but worried about being labeled “underfunded”; another 410 Republican House candidates are saying, why not me?


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