Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Fearing Democrats will secure a large enough majority in the U.S. Senate to pursue a national agenda aggressively, the Republican Party is borrowing $5 million to boost Nevada Sen. John Ensign’s efforts to elect Republican senators.
The last-minute loan comes as a prominent former Bush administration aide says the party should acknowledge the dimming hopes for its presidential candidate, John McCain, and redirect campaign funds to Senate races.
“Republicans need to face some strategic realities,” former Bush speech writer David Frum wrote in Sunday’s Washington Post.
“We cannot fight on all fronts. We are cannibalizing races that we must win and probably can win in order to help a national campaign that is almost certainly lost. In these final 10 days, our goal should be: senators first.”
The Republicans fear that Democrats could win a 60-seat majority in the Senate, enough to advance the party’s agenda despite minority opposition in the form of filibusters.
The Democrats’ current 51-49 majority isn’t enough to overcome the stalling tactic. Republicans have employed filibusters over the past two years more often than any minority party in history, contributing to public disapproval of a Congress that has had trouble getting things done.
The House will remain in Democratic control in the next Congress. If Democratic nominee Barack Obama becomes president, the Senate becomes the only place Republicans can block Democratic initiatives. For that reason, Frum wrote, “Every available dollar that can be shifted to a senatorial campaign must be shifted to a senatorial campaign.”
Of the $5 million, first reported Tuesday on washingtonpost.com,
$2 million is to go to Ensign’s committee to spend on Senate races and
$3 million to expenditures under way, a Republican National Committee official confirmed.
The loan did not come as a total surprise. Two weeks ago the committee was considering tapping the line of credit to help its senators.
But almost overnight, the prospect of a filibuster-proof Democratic majority has gone from remote to a main line of attack for Republicans.
Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the Cook Political Report, said the Republican Party’s warnings against the 60-seat Senate are probably motivating voters. Neither party has enjoyed a 60-seat Senate majority in 30 years.
Republicans who favor the shift in resources note that in 1996, Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour redirected money from then-presidential candidate Bob Dole’s race to Senate contests. The party picked up two seats that year. “The only reason we kept what we had was because he did that,” one Republican said.
Whether the infusion of cash will help remains to be seen. Duffy expects Democrats will match any Republican offensive “dollar for dollar.”
The Democratic Senate committee has outraised Ensign, and had more money on hand entering the final weeks of the campaign.