Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is the most prolific fundraiser in House Republican history, and his replacement as speaker will have big shoes to fill.
The unprecedented ouster of McCarthy earlier this month as speaker was seen as a setback for the House GOP as it aims to hold its fragile majority in the chamber in the 2024 elections.
Republicans are breathing some sighs of relief after the election Wednesday of GOP Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as speaker, which ended three weeks of vicious infighting in the House Republican Conference.
But the victory of 51-year-old Johnson as McCarthy’s successor invites questions regarding the four-term lawmaker’s ability to bring in the fundraising needed for the GOP to keep control of the House next year.
AFTER THREE WEEKS, THE HOUSE FINALLY HAS A NEW SPEAKER. CLICK HERE TO LEARN ALL ABOUT HIM
Not only is he in just his fourth term, but Johnson has never served in a senior leadership position nor steered a committee as chair.
On the fundraising front, he’s brought in on average about $1.3 million per cycle, plus a bit more for a leadership PAC. That pales in comparison to what he will now be asked to haul in on behalf of the GOP.
“McCarthy was a tremendous fundraiser and helped Republicans win the majority,” Brian Walsh, a veteran Republican consultant who served for years at a top communications strategist for both House and Senate Republicans, told Fox News.
Pointing to Johnson, Walsh said that “one key and emerging advantage he has is that he’s been able to unite a very divided caucus. That’s not easy to do, and that speaks to a lot of potential Johnson has to continue to grow in this role, which includes fundraising around the country with both large and small donors.”
HOUSE REPUBLICANS FACE FUNDRAISING SETBACK AFTER OUSTING MCCARTHY AS SPEAKER
Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), which is the House GOP’s campaign arm, said, “I know Mike cares deeply about our Conference, understands our majority is the last line of defense against the Democrats, and will work relentlessly with the NRCC to go on offense.”
“I am confident we will grow our majority with Republicans united behind Speaker Johnson and making our case to improve American families’ lives,” he added.
However, a longtime Republican operative and veteran of House races who asked for anonymity to speak more freely told Fox News, “I think it will be a bit of a learning curve” for Johnson.
As minority leader, McCarthy helped the GOP defy expectations in the 2020 elections by taking a big bite out of Democrats’ House majority — despite Democrats winning the White House. And he personally hauled in record fundraising in the last election cycle to help Republicans win back the House majority.
The three lawmakers who were each nominated by House Republicans to succeed McCarthy — House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer — all had plenty of fundraising chops.
Scalise, a 15-year House veteran from Louisiana, was the No. 2 Republican fundraiser last cycle, hauling in more than $18 million through his re-election campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission campaign finance disclosures.
Jordan, the longtime lawmaker from Ohio, was the No. 4 House Republican fundraiser last cycle, hauling in more than $14 million, mostly through small-dollar donors.
And Emmer, who steered the NRCC the past two cycles as the GOP took back the House majority, is also known as a prolific fundraiser. The Minnesota Republican has already raked in $7.3 million so far this year in fundraising.
But one after another, all three were forced to withdraw from the race after facing opposition from fellow Republicans in the chamber, or from former President Donald Trump.
While the GOP captured the House majority last year, hopes of a red wave never materialized and the party came out of the midterm elections with a fragile 222-213 majority. It’s currently a 221-212 edge, with seats in a red district and a blue district vacant. That means Democrats need a net gain of just five seats to win back control of the chamber next year.
“The House of Representatives is very much up for grabs in 2024. The party’s going to need as many financial resources as possible. At the same time, you’re competing with presidential campaign dollars and Senate dollars,” Walsh warned.
One of the outstanding questions is going forward is whether McCarthy will help Johnson with fundraising.
McCarthy wrote Wednesday on social media that Johnson “has my full support as Speaker. We’ll keep working together to put our country first and fulfill our Commitment to America.”
And Jeff Miller, a longtime friend and adviser who was a major force behind McCarthy’s fundraising, wrote in a statement that he “will absolutely help the new Speaker raise the resources to grow our majority in the House.”
A Republican consultant who has worked on House races told Fox News that “Johnson is going to have a lot on his plate very quickly on both the legislative and political calendars. This will really need to be a team effort among all the senior members.”
The consultant, who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely, emphasized that “to the extent that the former speaker would participate in that would be a big help.”
Democrats, aiming to win back the majority next year, were quick to target the new speaker.
Pointing to Johnson’s role in support of Trump’s unsuccessful effort to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss to President Biden and to his opposition to legalized abortion, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee argued that “Republicans have chosen a MAGA acolyte to push an extreme agenda in the House at the expense of middle-class families.”
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