Don’t Look Now But Democrats are Abandoning the House

The battle for the Senate has dominated the media coverage of the midterm elections for good reason. Having a GOP majority in both chambers is absolutely crucial to making any headway on future pro-growth policies as well as clearing the backlog of jobs bills that Sen. Harry Reid has allowed to languish.

But expanding our majority in the House should be more than an afterthought. It would allow Speaker Boehner some much needed wiggle room to find compromise with the Senate (which will still require Democrat support to get past cloture). It would serve as a buffer for future years where the political winds aren’t blowing so strongly in the GOP’s favor. And it would broaden the base of ideas that leadership has to pull from, a crucial advantage when the national debate shifts away from politics and towards policy.

Fortunately, this midterm is ripe for big gains. POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt recently reported that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is scaling back its ad purchases in 11 Republican-held districts.

The spending decisions come four weeks before a midterm election that is proving perilous to Democrats, who are 17 seats deep into the House minority and are almost certain to see their delegation shrink further. Many Democratic strategists privately concede they are likely to lose about six seats — a total that could grow should the environment deteriorate further.

With that in mind, party operatives are determining where to best focus their resources in the final weeks of the campaign — cold-blooded calculations that involve cutting loose candidates in races no longer seen as winnable in hopes of salvaging others.

“A month ago or two months ago, I would have said we could probably lose four, five, or six seats, and still have a legitimate shot next cycle,” one unnamed strategist told The Hill. “But if we lose double digits, there’s no way we can keep talking about 2016. That’s not a rebuilding year – that’s trying to survive.”

Most surprisingly, the bleak outlook for Democrats comes despite a massive advantage in fundraising. The DCCC has outraised its Republican counterpart by $27 million, and as of September booked around $15 million more for TV ads. Outside spending—the type Democrats usually decry—is also tilting their way. The House Majority PAC is on pace to spend $21.5 million in support of Democrat candidates while the main GOP House group—the American Action Network—only recently laid down $8 million.

But the huge cash advantage still isn’t enough to buoy the spirits of many Democrats. Jessica Taylor and Alexandra Jaffe report for a story titled “House Dems: We’ve been abandoned,”

“There’s no question it’s going to be a tough year for House Democrats but it’s going to be a lot worse if outside groups stay on the sidelines,” said one Democratic strategist.

“You hear Republicans complain about the [National Republican Congressional Committee’s] weak fundraising, but the severe drop-off in outside spending on the Democratic side is just as big a deal. Leaving seats on the table doesn’t do anyone any good now or in 2016,” the strategist said

Keep those quotes in mind the next time you hear a Democrat lament the corrupting influence of money in politics. They’re raising more and spending more than Republicans and still complain that they need more to survive.

What the strategists seem to be missing is that it’s not about money, it’s about a bad political environment created by poor leadership from the White House and awful ideas from their congressional delegation. So in a 2014 race that is certainly shaping up to be a fight between Democrat money and Republican ideas, it’s little wonder that Democrats are feeling abandoned and warning that they could spend years in the wilderness.