October 14, 2016 - 3:02 PM
WASHINGTON - Two major political groups that work to elect House Republicans said Friday they're pumping a fresh $10 million into 15 congressional races — all of it to defend GOP-held seats.
The planned expenditures come as Republicans have expressed concerns that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump's faltering presidential campaign could hurt congressional candidates. While Republicans have long seemed unlikely to lose House control in next month's elections, Democrats hopes have risen for big gains, perhaps even picking up the 30 seats they'd need to capture the majority.
The money is being spent to protect Republican-represented districts in Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia.
Some of the expenditures are not unexpected, protecting seats in suburbs around Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., plus districts with significant Hispanic populations in California. Those are the types of areas where many voters have shown hostility to Trump's comments on women, minorities and others.
But there are some surprises, such as $700,000 to help re-elect Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. While her Tucson-area district is around one-fourth Hispanic, Republicans have considered her a star of the outgoing Congress' freshman class and the $6.1 million she's reported raising is nearly seven times what her Democratic challenger has collected.
The groups are the American Action Network and the Congressional Leadership Fund.
The president of both groups, Mike Shields, said Friday that with the GOP's 247 House seats more than it's held in more than eight decades, it was not surprising it would have to play defence. But he acknowledged that Trump was a factor.
"I don't think that from the very beginning, we've ever hidden the fact that we knew that there was a challenging environment at the top of the ticket," said Shields. "That hasn't changed over the last week with current news stories."
Several women have reported in recent days that Trump groped them or kissed them without their consent. Trump has denied the allegations.
Shields said Trump's candidacy was one reason why the groups "have raised so much money and been prepared for that environment, and you're seeing us now deploy those resources."
Shields' groups have previously spent money on 14 other races, four of which are Democratic-held seats Republicans would like to capture.
In growing numbers of campaign ads, Democrats have been linking local congressional candidates to Trump.
"In this cycle, we've got Donald Trump, the biggest tail wind we've ever had," Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., former head of House Democrats' campaign efforts, said in an interview this week.
Of the 435 House seats, only a few dozen are believed to actually be competitive this year. Most of those are held by GOP lawmakers, meaning they have more seats to defend.
Congressional districts are usually designed to protect each party's incumbents. Sophisticated software has made the drawing of those lines very effective.
This story has been corrected to show that the groups plan to spend money on 15 House races, not 14.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016