Frontline House Republicans dominate Democrats in early fundraising

House Republicans in competitive districts dominated their Democratic counterparts in fundraising during the first three months of 2023, according to an Axios analysis.

Why it matters: Republicans have an early financial edge as they seek to expand their narrow majority and defend nearly 20 seats that went for President Biden in 2020.

By the numbers: Out of the 39 House incumbents whose seats are rated as either "toss-up" or "lean" by Cook Political Report, 17 of the top 20 fundraisers in the first quarter were Republicans.

  • On average, the Republicans raised $686,075, while the Democrats brought in $404,687.
  • National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Jack Pandol also noted the average Republican targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has $705,767 in cash on hand, while the average Democrat targeted by the NRCC has just $424,560.

What they're saying: "Money and message makes a majority, and our members are sprinting out of the blocks to build formidable war chests and tell their stories," Pandol said in a statement to Axios.

  • "A shift in control typically translates to increased fundraising for members of a new majority, but the razor thin margin gives every Republican in a swing district the ability to credibly claim that control of the House hinges on their re-election," said Ken Spain, a former communications director for the NRCC.

The other side: DCCC spokesperson Tommy Garcia noted that the committee out-raised the NRCC by $12 million during the first quarter.

  • "Come 2024, House Democrats will have the resources necessary to send extreme MAGA Republicans back to the minority," he said.
  • The DCCC also pointed to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) transferring $95,000 to $220,000 to many of the House Republican targets on the list.

Between the lines: Democratic strategists told Axios the numbers raise real concerns about their grassroots energy going into 2024, but also pointed to mitigating factors.

  • Several argued that, as the 2024 Republican presidential primary heats up, former President Trump — and, to a lesser extent, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — will juice Democrats' political engagement.
  • "I think [we're] just in an enthusiasm gap right now," said Democratic strategist Chris Coffey. "But I don't think it will last. The only way it will last is if you have a run-of-the-mill Republican" presidential nominee.

What we're watching: Two freshman Republicans stood out for strong fundraising: Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.) brought in over $1 million in the first quarter, giving him an early advantage in a swing Phoenix-area district.

  • Rep. Tom Kean Jr. (R-N.J.) also was one of the strongest Republican fundraisers, bringing in $831,000 — the most first-quarter money raised by a freshman lawmaker in state history.
  • Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), who narrowly won re-election in 2022 and has faced ethics issues, raised the least out of any frontline Republican besides embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).

Zoom in: Two anomalous bright spots for Democrats were first-term Reps. Pat Ryan (D-N.Y.) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-Wash.).

  • A New York Democratic operative pointed to Ryan raising his profile with his victory in a nationally watched special election last year, along with the fact that he's the last remaining swing-seat Democrat in the all-important Empire State.
  • A Perez spokesperson said the early news of hard-right Republican Joe Kent's repeat run after his upset loss to Perez last year was a "big motivator," with the campaign taking in 2,700 grassroots donors.
  • "People want to see real people in Congress,” the spokesperson added of Perez, an auto shop owner who has been on a tear against D.C. elitism.

The intrigue: Several other Democrats in competitive districts raised attention for underwhelming fundraising — raising retirement speculation.

  • Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) raised less than $100,000 for the quarter, receiving only nine itemized contributions.
  • Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), representing a Trump district, raised just $222,000 — toward the bottom of Democratic lawmakers in competitive seats.

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