Republicans Concerned Mike Johnson Can’t Match McCarthy’s Fundraising
The replacement of Kevin McCarthy as Speaker with Mike Johnson has led to financial concerns for the House Republicans ahead of 2024 due to Johnson’s limited fundraising experience. McCarthy’s political operation brought in over $78 million in 2023, compared to Johnson’s $608,000. Despite optimism from Johnson’s allies about his ability to raise funds, many within the party are unsure how his hard-line stance on social issues will be received by key financiers who tend to be more moderate than the party base.
Major Financial Gap Left for House Republicans Following Leadership Change
Replacing Kevin McCarthy with relatively unknown Congressman Mike Johnson as the speaker has created a significant financial deficit for House Republicans aiming to defend their unstable majority in 2024. Federal records show that McCarthy’s political operation amassed over 100 times more than Johnson in 2023, with totals of $78 million and roughly $608,000 respectively. The top levels of the Republican conference are now riddled with uncertainty, despite the relief of electing Johnson and ending the political deadlock.
Can Mike Johnson Fill McCarthy’s Financial Shoes?
Johnson’s fundraising capabilities are untested and many question if he can support the party’s financial needs. Since becoming speaker, Johnson has engaged with Dan Conston, the president of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a leading House Republican super PAC, and visited the National Republican Congressional Committee headquarters immediately after his swearing-in. Despite his efforts, Johnson is expected to face significant challenges in matching McCarthy’s fundraising efforts, which contributed 10 to 25 percent of the total campaign money for most House Republicans.
Continued Support from McCarthy, Uncertainties Remain
McCarthy has vowed to “help the party bridge the gap” as Johnson assumes his new role. However, his promise does not guarantee a continuation of his extensive fundraising ventures. In contrast to McCarthy’s successful fundraising strategies, Johnson’s hardline social positions may not appeal to key Republican financiers who remain more moderate than the party base.
Fundraising Initiatives for Speaker Johnson
Despite the challenges, allies of Johnson are confident in his ability to adapt to the fundraising circuit. Lobbyist Susan Hirschmann, who is organizing a fundraising event for Johnson reports high interest, while Brian Ballard, another lobbyist, asserts that his clients are “very excited to work with” Johnson. Nonetheless, Johnson will face significant pressure to match McCarthy’s fundraising strategies which highly benefitted vulnerable Republican incumbents.
McCarthy’s Financial Impact and the Republican Deficit
For 21 out of 24 vulnerable Republican incumbents, McCarthy was responsible for at least 10 percent of their fundraising in the first nine months of 2023. He was able to achieve this by successfully bundling large numbers of contributions. This year, the National Republican Congressional Committee trails the Democratic counterpart in fundraising $70.1 million to $93.2 million. The financial future of the Republican party depends largely on the fundraising success of Speaker Johnson.
Johnson Faces a Steep Learning Curve
Johnson, who lacks a significant donor network or a dedicated grassroots following, will face a steep learning curve. Jeff Brooks, a partner at lobbying firm Adams and Reese, believes Johnson has the personality to succeed and replace McCarthy’s funds. Majority Leader Steve Scalise is expected to assist Johnson as he establishes his operation.
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