House GOP Outside Spenders Did Better

Republican outside groups have taken a beating in the aftermath of Tuesday’s presidential and Senate elections, but a pair of conservative spenders focused on the House actually fared reasonably well in the final tally.

The nonprofit American Action Network and an affiliated super PAC, the Congressional Leadership Fund, went on TV in 19 congressional races during the 2012 general election, according to a CLF official. Of those races, Republicans won 12, lost five and two have yet to be called.

AAN’s heaviest investment was boosting California Rep. Jeff Denham’s campaign, laying out $2.5 million to help reelect the vulnerable incumbent. CLF put $2.7 million behind Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci, who defeated fellow incumbent Betty Sutton in the country’s second-most expensive House race.

But the list of winners is longer than that. AAN spent to support reelected Reps. Dan Webster of Florida ($1.1 million), Joe Heck of Nevada ($832,000) and Larry Bucshon of Indiana ($114,000), as well as Illinois Rep.-elect Rodney Davis ($1.5 million), North Carolina Rep.-elect Richard Hudson ($312,000) and New York Rep.-elect Chris Collins ($292,000). The Congressional Leadership Fund also shelled out nearly $900,000 on behalf of Collins, and boosted Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy ($675,000), New Jersey Rep. Jon Runyan ($627,000), Iowa Rep. Tom Latham ($438,000) and Michigan Rep. Dan Benishek ($323,000).

The groups had substantial disappointments, too: after AAN backed New Hampshire Rep. Frank Guinta with $2.1 million, the freshman Republican still lost to ex-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. Minnesota Rep. Chip Cravaack lost despite $1.7 million in AAN expenditures, while Illinois Rep. Robert Dold and Georgia challenger Lee Anderson also fell short after getting CLF support.

And the AP has called the race in Texas’s 23rd District for challenger Pete Gallego over GOP Rep. Francisco Canseco, who got $1.1 million in backing from CLF, though Canseco is challenging the result.

The two uncalled races – in Arizona’s 9th District and North Carolina’s 7th District – will make the difference in determining whether AAN and CLF come out of 2012 with an impressive winning percentage or simply a better-than-even record. But either way, the groups outperformed their counterparts in Senate and presidential races and clearly helped Republicans hold down House losses in a bad year.

“We’re proud our independent expenditures on television were able to play a critical role in key races and make a difference in preserving this 230-member strong House Republican majority under the leadership of Speaker Boehner, Leader Cantor, and Whip McCarthy,” said CLF spokesman Dan Conston.