Ed Gillespie campaign backed by $15 million from national GOP
Virginia Republican candidates suffered close losses in the 2013 governor’s race and the 2014 Senate race amid complaints that a little more support from national Republicans might have turned defeat into victory.
The Republican National Committee and Republican Governors Association are determined to make sure that’s not the case in next week’s election, having poured nearly $15 million combined into the race and giving GOP nominee Ed Gillespie all the help he can ask for.
“The RNC has been all-in from the beginning,” said John Whitbeck, chairman of the Virginia Republican Party.
The assistance may have helped Mr. Gillespie narrow the polls with Democratic nominee Ralph Northam, who’s getting massive assistance from liberal advocacy groups but not as much from national Democratic committees, which are struggling financially.
Flush with cash, the RNC has invested nearly $5 million in the race, and the RGA has ponied up $10 million.
The Democratic National Committee has put $1.5 million behind Mr. Northam, and the Democratic Governors Association’s contribution is more than $6 million combining for about half the rate of the GOP.
It’s indicative of the parties’ health overall at the national level.
The RNC, with President Trump’s fundraising assistance, has raised $104 million this year and had $44 million cash on hand as of Sept. 30, with no debt.
The DNC had raised $51 million, had $7 million cash on hand and carried $3.7 million in debt.
On Tuesday, DNC Chairman Tom Perez downplayed the investment disparity at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, saying Democrats were outspent 2-to-1 when they took over the House in 2006.
“The Republican National Committee routinely outraises the Democratic National Committee,” Mr. Perez said. “When you look at it in the historical context of where we have been, they have more wealthy donors than we do.”
Mr. Perez said the national party is “all-in” in Virginia and in the other governor’s race this year in New Jersey. He likened the current political climate to the second term of President George W. Bush.
“In 2005 you had a very unpopular Republican president, as we have now, engulfed in a culture of corruption, as we see right now, governing with a very unpopular Republican majority in both houses,” he said. “In 2005, that was the last time the Democratic candidate won the race in [both] New Jersey and Virginia.”
Republicans won the gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey in 2009, and again in the Garden State in 2013, but the GOP squandered what in hindsight was a winnable race in the Old Dominion that year. Democrat Terry McAuliffe held a large lead in the polls but narrowly defeated GOP nominee Ken Cuccinelli on Election Day.
Mr. Cuccinelli said he was outspent by $15 million, and Republicans said the RNC’s failure to do more cost him the race. The RNC had invested just $3 million in Virginia only a third of its investment four years earlier.
Similar concerns about the RNC’s investments emerged in 2014, when Mr. Gillespie fell a percentage point short of defeating Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner.
Morton Blackwell, an RNC member from Virginia, said the national party’s approach to the race this year is “a hell of a lot better than four years ago.”
He said he has been in regular contact with RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, who rang him Tuesday to share internal data on the party’s door-knocking operation, as well as to pick his brain about what else she could do to help the GOP ticket.
That could be a good omen for Republicans, who see their chances of defending the governorship in New Jersey slipping away and are eager to show their recent setbacks in Virginia statewide races are behind them.
Former Rep. Tom Davis, Virginia Republican, said Mr. Gillespie has a more unified party in the state this year compared to the 2013 and 2014 races.
“I think there is some buyer’s remorse that Republicans didn’t put more into Gillespie last time,” Mr. Davis said, adding that the GOP also recognizes that its best bet of winning is in Virginia since New Jersey’s governorship is probably out of reach.
“It is a very bad narrative to have to explain losing both governorships,” he said.