-- Retirements and redistricting scramble the landscape
A string of influential Republican lawmakers have announced retirement, setting up many open-seat contests that appear challenging for the GOP to defend.
From Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's Miami-area seat, to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce's Orange County, Calif. district, Democrats see pick-up opportunities in seats that were, until now, held by strong GOP incumbents.
"There's been a lot of retirements," said former Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Rob Gleason, when asked how concerned the Republican National Committee should be about midterms. "It's hard to replace incumbents. That always gives you an opportunity, whether Republican or Democrat, and they should be very concerned about it."
Meanwhile, several states -- most prominently, Pennsylvania -- are grappling with redistricting issues that inject a degree of uncertainty into what the ultimate congressional maps could look like, and another layer of uncertainty into the midterms environment as 2018 barrels on toward Election Day.
-- Which party has a cash advantage?
On the surface, Democrats look as if they have a big financial edge. More than 30 GOP incumbents were outraised by at least one Democratic challenger last fundraising quarter, while the DCCC's own fundraising continues to outpace GOP counterparts.
The party will also benefit from an unusual influx of progressive grass-roots cash. One group, Swing Left, with the help of liberal organizations such Daily Kos Elections, has already raised $4 million for a fund that will contribute to the eventual Democratic nominees in more than 70 battleground districts -- an unprecedented effort that could provide a lifeline of support to Democratic candidates in the days after they win their primaries. The group's goal is to raise $7 million, which if met, would mean it would distribute roughly $100,000 to each candidate.
"We think it can be a big difference-maker," Ethan Todras-Whitehill, the group's executive director and co-founder.
Still, Democrats are worried that well-moneyed groups on the right could dent, or even erase, their financial edge. The political network of Charles and David Koch last week promised to spend $400 million on the midterm elections, cash that could be buffeted by spending from organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce or Ending Spending.
"Ultimately, as we head into the 2018 midterms, I'm confident that a blue wave is building," Jesse Ferguson, veteran Democratic strategist, wrote in USA Today this week. "But I'm left wondering: Is our surfboard big enough?"
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