GOP’s lock on states’ power at risk
Several governor’s races, even in reddest states, are anyone’s game in a year crucial for 2020 redistricting.
DETROIT — Running in a place where Republicans dominate state government and Donald Trump won in 2016, Michigan Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette might have expected an easier path to victory in the upcoming governor’s race.
But at a recent midday news conference on the fringes of downtown Detroit, his allies were outnumbered by protesters outside, who shouted that the GOP nominee should “Go home!” banged on building windows and hoisted a giant puppet of him scowling. Schuette is trailing badly in polls.
In similar governor’s races throughout the nation, the GOP’s lock on power is in serious jeopardy as their candidates — in even the reddest states where Democrats have long been an afterthought — struggle ahead of the November midterm.
Some of the states where Republicans risk losing the governor’s office — Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida and Ohio, for example — are known to swing politically, but the trend extends far beyond those states.
Georgia, Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota have all been thrown into the toss-up column by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which recently noted that even Oklahoma is not a lock for Republicans.
The timing is bad for the Republicans, emerging as
market can be spread over several contests in other states that may be considered more winnable.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, which collects multimillion-dollar checks from the Republican Party’s biggest donors, says it is spending nearly $12 million on cable television ads in four House contests in Southern California
On Friday, the super PAC launched an additional $5million ad campaign on the main broadcast stations in Los Angeles, the nation’s second most expensive media market after New York.
But the fund’s opening broadcast ads support only two of the four Republican candidates in the Southland’s hardest-fought races: Rep. Steve Knight of Palmdale and Young Kim of Fullerton, relegating its Rohrabacher and Walters ads to
less widely viewed cable channels.
Courtney Alexander, the super PAC’s communications director, declined to comment on its advertising maneuvers.
“If the election were held today, we believe that both Mimi Walters and Dana Rohrabacher would win their reelection,” she said.
The fund is free to add Walters and Rohrabacher to its broadcast lineup later. But millions of Californians have already received their ballots by mail, so immediate advertising is crucial to the fate of the two lawmakers, who are each facing their most serious challenges ever. Rohrabacher has served 15 terms in Congress and Walters is bidding to win her third term.
Their Democratic challengers are already spending heavily on broadcast TV ads. Walters has aired some broadcast commercials too, but Rohrabacher has not.
Nationwide, Democratic candidates have raised far more money than Republicans. As a result, GOP candidates are counting on outside groups like the Congressional Leadership Fund to come to the rescue.
But those groups must pay as much as quadruple the rates that television stations are required by law to offer to candidates, so the Democratic dollars are buying far more ad time. And those dollars are expanding the political battlefield, pressuring Republican strategists to make hard decisions on where to commit precious resources and which candidates to let go.
“While most people talk constantly about whether [Democratic enthusiasm] will translate into turnout, it’s definitely translating into dollars,” said Rob Stutzman, a veteran Republican strategist in Sacramento. “Dollars aren’t decisive always, but it’s always a big advantage.
“When you’re these national committees and you’ve got problems in the suburbs of Dallas, Kansas City, Chicago, Philadelphia, you’ve got to start making decisions on where you can most effectively spend,” Stutzman said
For Knight, facing a formidable fundraiser in Democratic challenger Katie Hill, the new boost from the Congressional Leadership Fund came as a big relief. “We’re happy to have the help,” Knight strategist Matt Rexroad said.
Kim, the other Republican getting broadcast ads from the fund, is battling Democrat Gil Cisneros to succeed Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton.
A Rohrabacher spokesman did not return a call for comment.
Dave Gilliard, a strategist for Walters, warned against reading too much into the latest machinations.
“There’s a lot of head fakes and games of chicken that occur between various outside spending groups in all these congressional districts,” he said. “Everybody’s trying to head-fake the other side to get them to spend money where they don’t need it.”
A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee said the GOP’s congressional campaign arm is now broadcasting a spot supporting Walters and attacking her challenger, Katie Porter.
But he declined to say whether the committee would step up its advertising in either Orange County district if the Congressional Leadership Fund keeps Rohrabacher and Walters limited to cable.
Still, the spokesman, Jack Pandol, said there were no plans to retreat.
“It’s full speed ahead,” he said. “These are extremely competitive and close races … and they’re absolutely winnable.”