In a rare public display of intraparty frustration, the leader of Senate Republicans’ election efforts accused party colleagues Friday of failing to contribute enough money to fight races nationwide, saying he is now forced to limit advertisement spending even in close battles.
“I recently challenged my colleagues to step up to the plate and help me provide the resources our candidates need to compete in races across the country - to match [Democratic] expenditures in targeted races,” said Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).
“It has become clear that my call has gone largely unanswered,” he said.
The NRSC raised $3.7 million in July - down from about $5 million in June, the committee said.
Mr. Ensign said other GOP senators’ stinginess has left him no choice but to decrease the total independent-expenditure budget for the NRSC, the fundraising arm for Senate Republicans.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) by the end of July had almost $43 million cash in hand, compared with the NRSC’s $25.4 million. So last month, Mr. Ensign challenged his members to match the DSCC “dollar for dollar” in every state the Democratic body run ads.
“I will not allow our Republican candidates to be outspent by the DSCC this cycle,” he said July 30.
But as of Friday, Senate Republicans so far had failed to significantly whittle away at the DSCC’s almost two-to-one cash advantage, Mr. Ensign said.
“It is still my hope that my Republican colleagues will engage in this election and help match what the Democrats are doing,” he said Friday. “If they do, I will adjust our budget accordingly.”
The DSCC has spent more than $44 million on recent television advertisement in targeted Senate races across the country, he said last month.
The Republicans’ funding shortfall has already caused the NRSC to pull some ads in North Carolina for Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s re-election bid, said a senior Republican Senate aide.
“We have done a relatively good job at fundraising; it’s just that the [DSCC] is outmatching us,” the aide said.
Mr. Ensign’s public rebuke of his colleagues was a surprising and possibly counterproductive political maneuver, said John Fortier, a political analyst with the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
“In a body like the Senate, I’m not sure that a public shaming is going to work or that there won’t be people resentful of that,” he said. “I’m a bit surprised in the forum that he expressed [his comments], but it’s clear that Republicans are going to lose a significant number of seats in the Senate, and they could use more money.”
But Mr. Ensign only went public with his frustrations after repeated private pleas with individual senators were unsuccessful, the senior Republican Senate aide said.
“He has been doing that for a year-and-a-half,” the aide said. “This is not for a lack of trying.”
Most political analysts predict that Democrats will gain Senate seats in November to build on the slim 51-49 advantage their caucus enjoys. Of the 35 seats up for election in 2008, 23 are held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats.
While having a bigger campaign warchest than your rival political party isn’t essential for securing election victories, Republicans are in danger of not raising enough to be competitive, analysts say.
“Money is not the only factor [in elections], but [Mr. Ensign] obviously would be happier with more money,” Mr. Fortier said.