Republican candidates across the country are vying for former President Donald Trump’s endorsement to help shore up campaign funds and excite the GOP base. But Trump’s support hasn’t been enough to clear all Republican fields – something that is on display in two primary races pitting incumbent GOP House members against each other.
Because of congressional redistricting, the decennial process that redraws House district lines across the country in accordance with the census, Illinois and West Virginia each lost one House seat. That has left two Republicans in Illinois’ redrawn 15th Congressional District and two Republicans in West Virginia’s new 2nd Congressional District fighting to stay in office. Trump has endorsed in both races – Reps. Mary Miller in Illinois and Alex Mooney in West Virginia – but his chosen candidates haven’t been winning the money fight.
In Illinois’ 15th, Miller is a controversial first-term lawmaker who quoted Adolf Hitler at a rally the day before the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol. On January 6, she objected to the Electoral College vote count. In contrast, her opponent in the primary, Rep. Rodney Davis, voted to certify the election results. Trump and his allies in Congress, including Miller, have attacked the legitimacy of the 2020 election despite there being no evidence of widespread fraud. Miller’s allegiance to those claims may have helped secure Trump’s endorsement, but he hasn’t picked the stronger fundraiser in the race.
In the fourth quarter of 2021, Miller raised less than $165,000, bringing her election cycle haul through December 31 to $788,000. Davis, on the other hand, raised more than $1.8 million for his reelection campaign so far this cycle, including about $421,000 in the last three months of 2021.
Davis is also sitting on a campaign war chest that could be hard to beat. His latest report to the Federal Election Commission showed he had $1.2 million on hand at the start of the year. By comparison, Miller began 2022 with just $415,000.
The dynamics in the GOP primary in West Virginia’s 2nd District are similar.
Mooney voted against the Electoral College vote count on January 6, while fellow Republican Rep. David McKinley voted to certify Democrat Joe Biden’s win. McKinley also voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill and supported the creation of an independent commission to investigate the January 6 attack.
Mooney nabbed Trump’s endorsement in November, but the fourth quarter of 2021 was one of his lowest-performing fundraising periods.
He raised just $200,000 in those three months, while McKinley, in the same time frame, posted his highest quarterly haul of the year: $1.1 million, which included $500,000 of his own money. Mooney was still able to maintain a cash-on-hand advantage, though, and ended 2021 with nearly $2.4 million to McKinley’s $1.6 million.
Trump’s bets against Murkowski and Cheney could fall flat
While the GOP primaries in Illinois’ 15th and West Virginia’s 2nd are the only two for now in which two incumbents are facing off, some of Trump’s chosen candidates in other races are also struggling to keep up.
Trump promised retribution against those Republicans in Congress who voted to impeach or convict him in 2021. However, both Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski have dramatically outraised their Trump-endorsed primary opponents.
In Wyoming, Cheney raised $1.6 million more than Harriett Hageman in the fourth quarter of 2021, and in Alaska, Murkowski brought in nearly $1.4 million to Kelly Tshibaka’s $602,000.
And Trump’s involvement in GOP primaries has left the House Republican campaign arm in an awkward spot.
When asked about Trump’s endorsements in intraparty races, National Republican Congressional Committee communications director Michael McAdams reiterated the NRCC position that the organization “does not get involved in primaries.”
But last year, NRCC Chair Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota warned it wouldn’t be “helpful” for Trump to get involved in primaries after the former President promised to help candidates challenge Republicans who voted to impeach him.
Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich told CNN that all candidates endorsed by Trump “are in a strong position to win, and will continue to be supported throughout the campaign.”
“Having the resources necessary to win is important, but having the fundraising advantage is not determinative to the outcome, especially when running against out-of-touch career politicians. These candidates all have the most powerful and valuable asset in American politics, the endorsement of President Trump,” Budowich said in a statement.
Trump’s leadership political action committee, Save America, gave a combined $205,000 to dozens of federal candidates endorsed by the former President between July and December 2021, according to its FEC report filed January 31.
Democratic incumbents also go head-to-head
It’s not just Republican incumbents who are competing against each other in primaries because of redistricting. While Democrats have emerged from the redistricting process so far with more safe seats than initially predicted, three of their members will still be ousted because they have to face off against fellow incumbents in primaries.
But in each of those races, there’s a clear money leader.
Georgia Democratic Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath both won their initial House elections by flipping suburban Atlanta districts (Bourdeaux in 2020 and McBath in 2018). But McBath has walloped Bourdeaux in fundraising so far in the primary for the newly redrawn 7th Congressional District.
In the fourth quarter, McBath raised $746,000 to Bourdeaux’s $432,000. And McBath leads Bourdeaux by nearly $849,000 in total fundraising through December 31. That has allowed the gun control advocate to spend $1.1 million so far in the 2022 election, while Bourdeaux has spent just $600,000.
Georgia’s new congressional map gives Republicans an edge in nine districts, to Democrats’ five. Republicans have an 8-6 advantage under the current map.
McBath is also being powered by small-dollar donors. In the fourth quarter, $137,000 of her fundraising haul came from contributions of $200 or less. Bourdeaux reported $37,000 from the small-dollar donor base.
In the Democratic primary for Michigan’s redrawn 11th Congressional District outside Detroit, Rep. Haley Stevens nearly doubled Rep. Andy Levin’s fundraising in the fourth quarter, reporting a haul of $635,000 to Levin’s $365,000.
Levin’s lackluster fundraising highlights a question Stevens has levied against her opponent: Why did Levin decide to run in the 11th District when much of the territory he currently represents was placed in the new 10th Congressional District?
Levin – whose father, Sander Levin, was a Michigan congressman for 36 years – told a local news outlet he decided to run in the 11th District to “honor the process” of the state’s independent commission that drew the new map, which placed his home in the 11th District.
“I decided to run for reelection in the district where I live,” Levin said. “[My wife] and I have lived in our house for 16 years, five generations of my family have lived in the new 11th District.”
In Illinois, Rep. Marie Newman had to choose between two fellow Chicago-area Democratic representatives to run against.
Newman was placed in the state’s redrawn 4th Congressional District after redistricting, but she decided to avoid a primary race against Democratic Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García.
Instead, she chose to run against Rep. Sean Casten in Illinois’ newly redrawn 6th Congressional District.
Newman could have the advantage in the primary because the new district includes more of her current constituents than Casten’s. But she has fallen far behind her opponent in the money race.
Newman ended 2021 with $573,000 on hand, while Casten had nearly $1.6 million. In the fourth quarter alone, Casten raised $700,000 to Newman’s $338,000.
Newman is the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation for allegedly promising federal employment to an opponent in exchange for political support. She has denied the allegations.
CNN’s Fredreka Schouten contributed to this report.