Yuma Sun

GOP devotes $250M to keeping House majority


WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee has committed $250 million to a midterm election strategy that has one goal above all else: Preserve the party’s House majority for the rest of President Donald Trump’s first term.

Facing the prospect of a blue wave this fall, the White House’s political arm is devoting unpreceden­ted resources to building an army of paid staff and trained volunteers across more than two dozen states. The RNC is taking the fight to Senate Democrats in Republican-leaning states, but much of the national GOP’s resources are focused on protecting Republican-held House seats in states including Florida, California and New York.

“Our No. 1 priority is keeping the House. We have to win the House,” RNC political director Juston Johnson said. “That is the approach we took to put the budget together.”

RNC officials shared details of their midterm spending plan with The Associated Press just as several hundred volunteers and staff held a day of action on Saturday in competitiv­e regions across the country. The weekend show of force, which comes as Democrats have shown a significan­t enthusiasm advantage in the age of President Donald Trump, was designed to train 1,600 new volunteers in more than 200 events nationwide.

There were more than three dozen events in Florida alone, a state that features competitiv­e races for the Senate, the governorsh­ip and a half dozen House races.

Seven months before Election Day, there are already 300 state-based staff on the RNC’s payroll. The committee expects to have 900 total paid staff around the country — excluding its Washington headquarte­rs — before November’s election, Johnson said. The number of trained volunteers, he said, has already surpassed 10,000.

The strategy is expensive. And it carries risk.

The RNC’s focus on a sophistica­ted field operation designed to identify and turn out key voters, an approach favored by former chairman Reince Priebus and expanded by Trump’s hand-picked chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, leaves the RNC with no additional resources to run advertisin­g on television or the internet. It also puts tremendous pressure on the president and senior party leaders to raise money to fund the massive operation.

And few believe that even the best field operation could wholly neutralize the surge of Democratic enthusiasm on display in recent special elections, which has some Republican strategist­s fearing that the House majority may be lost already.

Democrats need to pick up at least 24 seats to take control of the House for the last two years of Trump’s first term. They need just two seats to claim the Senate majority, though the map makes a Democratic Senate takeover much less likely.

An optimistic McDaniel said strong Republican fundraisin­g has allowed the aggressive strategy. During the first year of Trump’s presidency, the GOP set a fundraisin­g record by raising more than $132 million.

“Our sweeping infrastruc­ture, combined with on-the-ground enthusiasm for President Trump and Republican policies, puts us in prime position to defend our majorities in 2018,” McDaniel said.

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