NEW YORK — With less than two months to go before the November elections, House Democrats are ready to launch an aggressive and carefully targeted fundraising program aimed at steering a total of $2.6 million to more than a dozen of their most urgent races.
The R2B program — named for the effort to move House districts from “red to blue” when it comes to Congressional representation — has a goal of raising $200,000 each for 13 Democratic candidates across the county during the next two weeks.
The fundraising drive, which is scheduled to end Sept. 20, is being spearheaded by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Matsui (Calif.). The plan depends heavily on Pelosi’s ability to tap her national network of donors. She will unveil details of the program to Caucus members this week, as they return from the August recess.
“This is trying to get campaigns money at a time when they can use it,” said Greg Speed.
Democrats are hopeful this new approach to bundling money — targeting or concentrating it “toward smaller groups of candidates at a time when they can best use it,” as Speed put it — will be more efficient and, in the long run, more effective than previous programs the party has run.
In the past, the party has distributed large lists of targeted candidates to their Members without a specified timeline for donations. This has sometimes made it difficult for the party to get more bang for its buck.
“This is smart-bombing, not carpet-bombing,” Speed said.
The candidates who will benefit from the program are: Paul Babbitt, who is challenging Rep. Rick Renzi (Ariz.); John Salazar, who is running for the open seat in Colorado’s 3rd district; Dave Thomas, who is challenging Rep. Bob Beauprez (Colo.); Jim Sullivan, who is challenging Rep. Rob Simmons (Conn.); Diane Farrell, who is running against Rep. Christopher Shays (Conn.); John Barrow, who is challenging Rep. Max Burns (Ga.); Tony Miller, who is challenging Rep. Anne Northup (Ky.); Patty Wetterling, who is challenging Rep. Mark Kennedy (Minn.); Richard Romero, who is challenging Rep. Heather Wilson (N.M.); Lois Murphy, who is challenging Rep. Jim Gerlach (Pa.); Ginny Schrader, who is seeking the open seat in Pennsylvania’s 8th district; Brian Higgins, who is seeking the open seat in New York’s 27th district; and Don Barbieri, who is running for the open seat in Washington’s 5th district.
Democrats stressed that this is a need-based program and that the current list should not be construed as indication of their only targeted races. If the program is successful there may be more candidates who will get the same assistance.
“These are campaigns with very real needs for this money at this time,” Speed said. “We think these are some of the candidates who can win, and all have needs that can be addressed with a quick influx of cash.”
Democratic strategists say this is the most ambitions fundraising program the committee has embarked on in recent memory.
“It’s absolutely unprecedented both in terms of scope and in terms of timing,” said Democratic consultant Steve Murphy, who has four clients on the R2B list.
Murphy noted that as candidates gain momentum, they are often raising a disproportionate amount of money late in the campaign — a point at which it is more difficult to spend it effectively.
But by getting a quick infusion of money now, these campaigns will have more leeway to make more strategic decisions about how to use it down the stretch.
“It allows the campaign to make decisions in a timely fashion,” said Murphy, whose clients include Barrow, Murphy, Babbitt and Miller.
Republicans, meanwhile, noted that after the DCCC spent more than they took in during July, it’s no surprise that they were looking for new ways to help fund their candidates.
“They’re going to need more than one good idea to catch up,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Carl Forti.
As Republicans gathered in New York for their convention last week, NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) said the committee is just now ramping up its fundraising efforts with the launch of its signature “Battleground” program. Reynolds said that while Democrats have already leaned on House Members to pony up dues, the NRCC is relying on a strong support of their Members for a large influx of cash in the final push to Election Day.
“We’ll raise 16 million dollars with the help of our Members to go on top of” the NRCC’s $24.2 million cash-on-hand total at the end of July, he said. By contrast, he said, “Democrats have raised most of what they’re going to get out of their Members.”
The DCCC had $17.6 million in the bank at the end of July.