WASHINGTON — At a moment in the 2020 campaign cycle when House Republicans should be looking to pad their campaign coffers with the help of President Donald Trump's massive fundraising operation, it's the president's re-election campaign asking them for assistance instead.
And the new — and unusual — request for House members to raise money for the president’s campaign is angering some of them who say they need to prioritize their own re-election and efforts to win back the majority.
Trump Victory Finance Committee chair Kimberly Guilfoyle announced a new “volunteer” fundraising effort Tuesday night, naming 21 House Republicans as regional “co-captains” to help the president obtain “the necessary resources to win in November.”
As the coronavirus pandemic continues across the United States, and cities and states grapple with reopening after lockdowns, Trump is focused on politics and his re-election, telling Senate Republicans at a closed-door lunch Tuesday that they need to stick with him if the party is going to win in November.
But some members are angry that the Trump campaign has enlisted House Republicans to help his re-election, saying the president is poaching much-needed resources from them and sending a signal to donors and voters that they can’t win back the House from Democrats.
“While I hope to do everything possible to help re-elect the president, this effort distracts from the House GOP’s efforts to win back the majority,” one House Republican, who asked not to be named in order to speak freely, told NBC News. “I’m focused on that — not helping the best funded presidential re-election campaign in history raise even more money.”
House Republicans are encouraged to contribute to the Trump Victory campaign through their leadership political action committees, personal campaign funds and by raising money from supporters, according to a Trump campaign aide.
“This is a team fight and if our members can help the Trump campaign raise the resources necessary to defeat Joe Biden and his socialist agenda, we will do so,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Pack said.
The Trump campaign is in no need of cash. It has smashed fundraising records and has far outraised the apparent Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden. And House Republicans are lagging behind their Democratic counterparts in fundraising — a key indicator of success on Election Day.
The campaign argues that enlisting House members doesn’t distract from the GOP efforts but will also benefit Republican members in their own re-elections, saying that raising money for Trump “works both ways.”
The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have combined to raise about a half-billion dollars from the start of 2019 through March, closing the first quarter of 2020 with about $175.6 million in the bank. And the Trump campaign is also boosted by other affiliated committees that are raising big money to assist in the re-election.
By comparison, Biden and the Democratic National Committee had just $62 million on hand combined through March, with the DNC carrying $5 million in debt.
The House fundraising organization, the NRCC, had $49 million cash on hand at the end of March compared to $81 million for their Democratic counterparts, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The Trump campaign has tapped the House’s biggest fundraisers including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, NRCC Chair Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Republican Conference Chair Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
One GOP strategist who works for a member and also requested not to be named in order to speak candidly, called McCarthy's involvement "pathetic."
“The NRCC and their candidates do not have a pot to p--- in, and it’s pathetic Kevin McCarthy is taking his eye off the ball,” the strategist said. “It makes you wonder if McCarthy is giving up on winning the majority and hedging his bets for an appointment in the second term of the Trump presidency.”
House Republicans need a net gain of 18 seats in November to take back the House. Their best chances are winning in the 31 districts held by Democrats that Trump won in 2016.
The national landscape is strong for Democrats, polls suggest. A recent Monmouth University poll found Democrats with a 10-point edge over Republicans when voters were asked which party they’d choose in their congressional race.
In a statement released by Trump Victory, McCarthy said the effort “will help provide President Trump and the Republican Party the resources needed to defeat the Democrats’ socialist agenda and win on Election Day.”
Trump’s enlistment of House members to raise money for him is a departure from precedent. Usually, the party’s presidential nominee helps its House members carry down-ballot races over the finish line in the hopes of also getting a governing majority in Congress.
President Barack Obama broke with precedent in his re-election by not transferring some of his campaign money to House Democrats prior to Election Day, but it’s extremely rare for a presidential nominee to seek funds from in-cycle lawmakers.