By Jim EllisOct. 4, 2018 — Recently, signals were developing that Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock’s (R-McLean) campaign status against state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-Loudoun County) was trending poorly to the point that she was becoming one of the most endangered incumbents in the nation. Now, the political winds appear to be changing.
In June, Monmouth University released a survey that found the congresswoman dropping behind her Democratic opponent by a substantial margin, 50-41 percent, under a standard midterm turnout model; President Trump’s approval rating was severely upside down; and rumors were circulating that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) was looking to cancel its multi-million dollar media air time reservation.
Now, things have picked up for Comstock. Yesterday, Monmouth released their new survey for this district (Sept. 26-30; 374 likely VA-10 voters), and it shows her gaining strength when compared to their June data. Still, Wexton leads in all three of their projected turnout models, but it is clear that the momentum is moving in Comstock’s direction.
Under the standard midterm participation model, the Wexton lead is 50-44 percent. If the turnout is low, her margin dips to 50-46 percent. And, if a “Democratic surge” actually takes hold of the electorate, the margin increases to 53-42 percent.
Though Rep. Comstock is behind under all turnout models, her standing has improved in each since June, and reports from inside her campaign suggest the numbers might be even better. Under the standard turnout model forecast in June, the Comstock gain is a net three percentage points. Within the low turnout model, she gains a net five points, and even her standing vis-a-vis the “Democratic surge” is better, by a net two percent.
Additionally, there is little question surrounding the major party committees’ action. Last week the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) reported investing an additional $567,000 into their independent expenditure program for the district, which was their top expenditure increase in the nation. The NRCC countered with $422,000, their third-largest outlay in the country.
Previously, rumors abounded that both committees were pulling out of the race suggesting that the key House political strategists all believed the race was over. If such conjecture was true, clearly minds have been changed and the competition looks to intensify.
Though the data still favors Wexton, it appears this race is moving back toward toss-up status. Should this trend continue, the outcome 34 days from now becomes uncertain.
It wasn’t very long ago when spending as much as $2 million for a congressional race was unusual. According to early dollar count releases from various campaigns covering third quarter fundraising, at least six candidates — five Democratic challengers and one open seat contender — topped that figure just in the last three months.
The group is led by retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Amy McGrath (D), who brought in over $3.65 million from what the campaign reports is more than 32,000 donors for her challenge to Rep. Andy Barr (R-Lexington) in Kentucky’s 6th District. The figure means her overall campaign receipt total exceeds $6.6 million.
The others are California challenger Josh Harder, who obtained $3.5 million in his battle against Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock/Modesto); Sharice Davids ($2.7 million) opposite Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park) who took in over $1.1 million, himself; Sean Casten, who reports $2.6 million in the third quarter for his campaign challenging Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton); and Tom Malinowski (opposing New Jersey GOP Rep. Leonard Lance) and open-seat California contender Mike Levin (CA-49) — against Republican Diane Harkey to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Darrell Issa in the San Diego-Orange County seat — who both attracted more than $2.2 million.
These amounts are extraordinary and record-setting. Obviously, when all of the reporting becomes public after Oct. 15, the national fundraising picture should give us strong clues about the eventual outcome for these and other critical House campaigns.