CLF President Dan Conston sat down with National Journal’s Kirk Bado to talk through Republicans’ path to a House Majority in 2022, redistricting, recruitment and state of the battlefield.
In case you missed it, check out the interview below:
Wednesday Q+A with Dan Conston
The president of the Congressional Leadership Fund looks to return House Republicans to power.
National Journal | Kirk Bado | June 30, 2021
Dan Conston is the president of the Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with Republican House leadership. Last year, the group spent a record $140 million on House races, defended every incumbent, and came within five races of knocking Democrats out of power. CLF and its affiliated group, the American Action Network, are already turning up the heat on vulnerable Democrats and laying the groundwork for a run at the majority next year. Now in his second cycle leading both GOP organizations, Conston talks with campaign correspondent Kirk A. Bado about Republican gains in digital fundraising, redistricting, and the midterms.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
How are Republicans positioned in the race for the House at this point?
We’re in a very strong position. The political atmosphere is trending towards Republicans. Now, there are five areas we need to focus on in order to retake the majority: recruitment and building on the success of 2020; maintaining enthusiasm, because midterms are all about voter enthusiasm; redistricting and understanding the opportunity presented by redrawing the congressional maps; fundraising, because there’s no bigger fight than cutting into Democrats’ digital advantage; and finally, holding Democrats accountable. Midterms are also about holding the party in power accountable, and with one-party rule it made our jobs easier. We need to make the contrast between Democrats and Republicans clear.
If we focus on these five areas, we will win the majority and win it handily.
You’ve sounded the alarm on Republican struggles with digital fundraising after the last election. We’re a few weeks before the second-quarter FEC filing deadline. Have you seen improvements?
Digital fundraising has transformed candidate fundraising. The best campaigns are investing early and building their [email] lists so they can be successful down the line. Democrats really cracked the online-fundraising code early, and it’s given them a huge advantage. What we’re seeing early on is Republicans who made the leap are raising great money and putting themselves in a position to be competitive.
How have the delays in redistricting data impacted your strategy?
The concern as we go deeper into redistricting and this drags out is that as candidates wait to get in, the delay compresses their calendar. Some candidates need that long runway to get going to build momentum, and we just don’t have that. So my advice is, if I were a top-tier candidate knowing how favorable the environment is, I would just jump in now and get rolling.
Even with redistricting delays, you’ve already targeted several Democrats with ad buys. How do you see the battlefield in 2022?
It’s up in the air right now, but because of redistricting the map will be smaller with less competitive races on each side, and it also delays our ability to know who those vulnerable candidates will be on the fringes of the battleground. But in the end, we expect Republicans to benefit from redistricting because voters are fleeing poorly run, high-tax Democrat states for low-tax Republican states.
As for the ads we’re running, we focused on a variety of Democrats who we think will be vulnerable regardless of how the map is drawn. What helps is these vulnerable Democrats like Representative Tom Malinowski, who is facing serious ethics concerns and Representative Ron Kind, who’s involved in some shady businesses at a property he owns.
Given the redistricting delays, we’re particularly excited about Jen Kiggans in Virginia, who is going to knock off Representative Elaine Luria, and Wesley Hunt is poised to jump back in Texas.
We’re in the off-year, but could you put a number on how many seats Republicans will win next year?
There’s just too many unknowns with redistricting to put an exact number on anything, but I am confident that we will win the majority and we will do it by a big margin.