GOP funders giving up on more vulnerable incumbents, including 19-term Rep. Dana Rohrabacher

In a last-ditch attempt to save a GOP majority, party backers cut loose Rohrabacher and several other incumbents

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published October 16, 2018 3:00PM (EDT)

Dana Rohrabacher; Mimi Walters (AP/Lauren Victoria Burke/Wikimedia)
Dana Rohrabacher; Mimi Walters (AP/Lauren Victoria Burke/Wikimedia)

The leading Republican congressional election super PAC has announced it will no longer fund multiple vulnerable incumbents in a bid to preserve their House majority.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, announced it will spend $12 million on new television ad buys. None of that money will go to embattled California Republican incumbents Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, in the 48th congressional district, or Rep. Mimi Walters in the 45th congressional district, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Rohrabacher has been in Congress since 1989, after he left the Ronald Reagan administration. Despite winning his last reelection with 58 percent of the vote, Rohrabacher is in a virtual tie with Democrat Harley Rouda. Walters, who has only served two terms, trails Democratic challenger Katie Porter despite winning her last election by 17 points. Both lawmakers represent districts in the Southern California suburbs that were carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The Republican Party also pulled its funding in the race for Arizona's 2nd congressional district last week. A Siena College/New York Times poll found Democrat Thomas O'Halleran leading Republican Wendy Rogers by 11.4 points in the race to replace Rep. Martha McSally, who is now running a hotly contested U.S. Senate race against Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. McSally won her previous election with 57 percent of the vote.

The New York Times reports that Illinois Republican Rep. Peter Roskam, who represents the state's 6th congressional district in the Chicago suburbs, may be the next to lose funding. Roskam, a six-term congressman, narrowly trails Democrat Sean Casten despite winning re-election two years ago with nearly 69 percent of the vote.

Republicans currently hold a 23-seat majority in the House. Former National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) Chairman Thomas Davis told the Times that the party will have to make difficult choices in the final weeks of the campaign.

“You want to hold your losses to 20 or 22,” Davis said. “This is the kind of year where Republicans are going to have to give up on some races and they’re going to have to make some hard choices.”

The Congressional Leadership Fund's move comes after the NRCC pulled out of multiple races earlier this month.

The group canceled a $1.2 million ad buy for incumbent Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder, who won his previous re-election by 10 points even though Clinton carried his district. Yoder trails Democrat Sharice Davids, an ex-MMA fighter who could become the first lesbian Native American in Congress.

The NRCC also canceled ads for Pennsylvania incumbent Rep. Keith Rothfus, who trails Democratic incumbent Conor Lamb in the race for Pennsylvania's newly-drawn 17th congressional district.

The Congressional Leadership Fund also cut off Michigan Rep. Mike Bishop, who is in a tight race against Democrat Elissa Slotkin in the state's 8th congressional district outside Detroit. Both Donald Trump and Mitt Romney previously carried the district. The group also cut off Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman, who trails Democrat Jason Crow by 11 points in a Siena College/New York Times poll.

The money scramble shows that a number of other seats previously considered safe for Republicans are now up for grabs. Republicans are trying to shore up support for incumbent Texas Rep. Pete Sessions in the state's heavily conservative 32nd congressional district. Sessions is in a dead heat against Democrat Colin Allred despite winning his previous re-election with more than 61 percent of the vote.

Election forecaster FiveThirtyEight gives the Democrats an 84.5 percent chance of winning the House at this writing, projecting a 39-seat pickup on Election Day.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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