- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 20, 2018

House Republicans head into the 2018 midterms with their best finances ever, as they prepare for what analysts say could be a tough battle to defend their majority.

The National Republican Congressional Committee raised $10.1 million in the first month of the year — $3.6 million higher than their previous record in January of an election year. They also beat their 2016 total for available funds with $50.6 million cash on hand, $15.9 million more than at this point in 2016 cycle, their previous best.

“Our first month of fundraising in the election year began just how the off year ended — with another broken record. The impressive start to the new year provides the NRCC with a great foundation to work from as we continue to do all that is necessary to maintain Republican control of the House,” said NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers, Ohio Republican.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also announced a record total for January on Tuesday with $9.3 million raised in the first month of the year, according to the Huffington Post. The fundraising wing for House Democrats boasted an average donation of $18, which they say shows a high level of enthusiasm among activists. They have $43.8 million on hand.

While most of the attention in midterm election years usually goes to Senate races, the House could be the bigger battleground this year.

And while the Republicans are on the offensive in more races in the Senate, because of an unusual number of “red” states with Democratic incumbents, their party is playing defense in the House, where the Cook Political Report currently says 18 GOP-held seats are tossups, compared to just three Democratic seats.

Republican strategist David Ferguson said the NRCC’s fundraising numbers suggest the GOP may be able to fight off a Democratic wave. But he urged the party not to become complacent.

“One good month doesn’t make a cycle,” he said. “Fundraise like you’re 20 points behind always.”

Another Republican said that the increased fundraising has to do with the bills Congress has passed in recent months, especially the tax plan.

“The better fundraising numbers reflect the better performance of Congressional Republicans, more specifically the fact that they passed the tax cut bill, which is proving to be very popular with the voters,” said John Feehery, partner at EFB Advocacy.

Democrats said the GOP’s money won’t overcome President Trump’s historic unpopularity and bad policy decisions.

“The good news for Democrats is that money can’t buy love, and right now the voters are not in love with the party of Trump, the Republican Congress and their continued failure to move beyond the divisive state of politics and address fundamental challenges faced by the country,” Democratic strategist Bill Knapp said.

Democrats need to capture about two dozen House seats to win the majority. They got a major boost Monday when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced new congressional districts to be used in November that analysts said could net Democrats up to five seats in that state alone.

Republicans, though, are doing better recently in “generic ballot” polling when voters are asked if they plan to support a Democrat or a Republican in their local House election.

Once down double-digits, the GOP is now trailing by 6.9 percentage points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll from last week even showed Republicans with a 1-point lead in the generic congressional ballot test, with 39 percent favoring the Republican candidate in their district, compared to 38 percent who favor the Democrat. The poll also found 23 percent were undecided.

Mr. Trump seemingly seized on those numbers Tuesday.

“Republicans are now leading the Generic Poll, perhaps because of the popular Tax Cuts which the Dems want to take away. Actually, they want to raise you taxes, substantially. Also, they want to do nothing on DACA, R’s want to fix!” the president tweeted.

Mr. Trump has helped his party’s fundraising beyond House races, with the Republican National Committee raising $12.4 million in January and $40.7 million on hand with zero debt, according to Roll Call. They’ve raised a total of $144.9 million in the 2018 cycle so far.

The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, has struggled, ending 2017 with more than $6 million in debt. Politico reported last week that the party recently hired a new chief fundraiser, adviser Clayton Cox, in the hopes of boosting its totals.

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