National Republicans acknowledged on Wednesday that they were confronting a toxic political environment that could wipe out their majorities in the upcoming midterm elections.
During a closed-door conference meeting at the Capitol Hill Club, House Republican leaders warned that Tuesday’s special election for a conservative Pennsylvania congressional seat, where the Democratic candidate is narrowly leading, could portend a monster Democratic year and told rank-and-file members in no uncertain terms that they needed to get their campaigns in order or that they could be casualties.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) led off the huddle by calling the race “a wake-up call,” said one person in attendance.
“Prepare to bear down," he added.
Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Republicans were deeply troubled by the campaign waged by Republican candidate Rick Saccone, who raised little money and relied almost entirely on the national party to pull him over the finish line. Appearing before the conference, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the contest was evidence that members needed to up their fundraising game. Republicans, he said, would need to define themselves on their terms – and they couldn’t do that if they were lacking for cash.
"Our voters turned out, but you can't get outspent five-to-one," said Stivers.
For all the hand-wringing, however, it is not clear that all Republicans agree the Pennsylvania election is a sign of things to come.
Walking into the meeting, New York. Rep. Chris Collins, a close ally of President Donald Trump, called the race a “one-off.”
“We’ve won five [special elections]; they’ve won one. I’m feeling pretty good,” he added.