Rep. Rohrabacher’s struggling campaign fueled by outside fundraising

Mike Pence

Even with help from the vice president, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher couldn't match fundraising of Democratic challengers.

Trump’s vice president is working hard to bail out embattled Orange County Republican Dana Rohrabacher, who is struggling to raise enough campaign cash to defend his vulnerable seat in 2018.

Roharabacher would have fallen even further behind in the money race if help from outside hadn’t been there to prop up his fundraising numbers.

First reported by the L.A. Times, 1 in 5 dollars raised by Rohrabacher in the last six months of 2017 came from a “joint fundraising committee connected with [Vice President Mike] Pence and [House Majority Leader Kevin] McCarthy.” The joint committee gave Rohrabacher $125,000 in that time period.

Even with that infusion of cash, Rohrabacher fell behind the fundraising of multiple Democrats looking to oust Rohrabacher in November.

Fundraising is only one aspect of a campaign, but it is a concrete measure that can hint at broader themes.

For example, many politicians talk about the amount of funds raised from “small dollar” donors who donate less than $200 to a campaign. Small campaign donations can be indicative of grassroots enthusiasm, according to elections experts.

A mere 2 percent of Rohrabacher’s campaign contributions came from small dollar donors.

Rohrabacher is facing an especially tough re-election this year. His congressional district supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Rohrabacher has made clear that he is fully on board with Trump and Trump’s agenda. Rohrabacher went so far as to host a fundraising event at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. That event won Rohrabacher a place among dozens of individuals and groups ethics experts said were “effectively paying tribute to Trump by frequenting his properties.”

Rohrabacher and Trump have more in common than trying to unethically line Trump’s pockets. Special counsel Robert Mueller has taken a keen interest in both Trump and Rohrabacher for unusually friendly ties to Russia.

At a recent congressional hearing, Rohrabacher sided with Russia, questioning the unanimous conclusion American intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. His ties are so suspicious that his own Republican colleagues limited his authority as chairman of a congressional subcommittee with jurisdiction over U.S.-Russia policy.

After years in a relatively safe seat, Rohrabacher’s constituents are showing serious concerns about sending him back to Congress in November. A recent poll shows a majority of voters are disinclined to re-elect Rohrabacher, with women particularly unhappy with him. His positions on a wide variety of issues — from health care to offshore oil drilling — are at odds with what voters in his district want.

Rohrabacher’s ties to Russia, loyalty to Trump, and poor fundraising are energizing Democrats, who are expected to make the Orange County congressional district as one of their top targets in November.