Republican panic about the 2018 election is reaching new heights, as a super PAC affiliated with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) just pledged more than $2 million in television ads to bail out Palmdale’s embattled congressman, Steve Knight.
The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) will spend $2.1 million in television ads in Knight’s district (which covers northern Los Angeles County and parts of Simi Valley) between now and Election Day. Hillary Clinton won Knight’s district in 2016, and Knight is regularly listed as one of the nation’s most vulnerable incumbents.
“CLF is prepared to lead the way in defending the House Republican majority,” said executive director Corry Bliss. Based on Knight’s recent fundraising report, he will need to rely on outside spending to compete with Democratic enthusiasm.
Democratic challenger Katie Hill raised more cash than Knight for the second straight quarter, according to the latest data from the Federal Elections Commission. Knight’s impotent fundraising totals are a major red flag to election experts.
“It’s inexcusable for an incumbent to be outraised,” said Bliss, even as his group pours millions of dollars into a race where the incumbent got outraised for two consecutive quarters.
“The members who are getting outraised at this stage of the election cycle are the ones who present the biggest risk to the Republican majority,” said Ken Spain, a Republican consultant who served as the National Republican Congressional Committee’s communications director in 2010.
If “fundraising is an outgrowth of intensity,” as Spain says, perhaps Knight’s extreme loyalty to the Trump agenda helps explain the lack of intensity behind Knight’s fundraising.
Even though Knight claimed to be “deeply disturbed” by Trump’s sexually abusive actions toward women, Knight has nonetheless voted to support the Trump agenda 99 percent of the time in Congress. And while the majority of his constituents voted against Trump, Knight is one of the most reliable Trump supporters in the entire country.
Knight voted to repeal health care for constituents, and for numerous new provisions that are dramatically increasing health care premiums. Additionally, he championed the unpopular Republican tax bill, which is raising taxes on millions of Californians.
Republicans like Knight are becoming overly reliant on outside groups to bail them out, complains Chris LaCivita, a Republican strategist. He lamented that defending “struggling members,” like Knight’s, takes away resources that could be used for offensive opportunities.
In a prediction that could come true for Knight, LaCivita offers a dire warning.
“Members, sometimes, get lost in this perception that everyone in the district knows how great they’re doing,” he says. “And then they’re surprised on Election Day when they lose.”