Even before the election returns begin to flood in, Republican insiders are privately high-fiving each other over their execution of a politically risky strategy that enabled them to outflank their Democratic counterparts, transforming this election cycle into a category 5 anti-Democratic hurricane.
As first reported Monday in The Rothenberg Political Report, sources at the National Republican Congressional Committee are saying they took a roll of the dice and opened their wallets early, spending heavily in rural, less-expensive media markets while Democrats opted to hold on to their cash for a last-minute advertising push in the closing weeks of the election.
According to a Roll Call analysis, Republicans had spent $11.3 through the independent-expenditure arm of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) as of Sept. 30, compared to $4.1 million for Democrats. It now appears that Democratic strategy has backfired.
This was reflected in the FEC filings that showed the NRCC with just $19 million left in its coffers, compared to $41.6 million remaining for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Rothenberg reports that there were 16 races in which the NRCC had spent at least $300,000 by the beginning of October. Democrats, by contrast, had invested that much in only five contests.
Details of the tactics that Republicans used to set up a potential landslide are just beginning to emerge. A high-level NRCC source tells Newsmax that the GOP, which had substantially less money to spend than did Democrats, perfectly executed the political equivalent of an NFL flea-flicker pass in the way it allocated its money.
"We always knew we would be outgunned by the Democrats," the source says. "So we decided to make a calculated risk and take advantage of the environment. We believe it has paid off."
By investing substantial dollars early in races that weren't even thought to be up for grabs as of September, Republicans were essentially able to expand the playing field and gain momentum. As Democratic strategists looked at their political maps, they saw race after race flipping from "Leaning Democratic" to "Toss-Up." That meant that once Democrats did begin doling out money, those funds had to be spread over a much larger number of races.
Also, as Republicans saw their opportunities increasing even in districts with strong Democratic incumbents, they were energized and more likely to support the GOP campaign as it gathered momentum.
Of course, many other contributing factors are in play: The moribund economy, ethics charges against high-profile Democrats, the disparity in party enthusiasm, the rising unpopularity of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the continual activism of grass-roots conservatives.
All of these elements played an important role in aggravating an already negative election cycle for Democrats.
But the ultimate impact of the GOP's financial Hail Mary pass is reflected in analysts' projections for a GOP gain of between 50 and 60 seats in the House and up to 8 seats in the Senate. Analysts see the 10-seat Senate pickup needed to take over the upper chamber as unlikely, but not out of the question, depending on the strength of Tuesday wave.
Ed Goeas is a partner in the Alexandria, Va.-based Tarrance Group, a polling and consulting firm that is aiding Republicans in nine gubernatorial races, five Senate races, and 65 congressional races this cycle.
Goeas credits several leading Republican organizations with a high-stakes bet that early media buys would expand the number of vulnerable Democrats. Goeas singled out the NRCC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the Republican Governors Association for praise in their tactics and strategies, which capitalized on voters' frustration with Democratic policies.
Had Republicans miscalculated, they could have been left with empty pockets in the vital closing days of the 2010 midterm election. Instead, Democratic incumbents throughout the country are struggling to stave off election upsets.
"They have won their bet," independent analyst and publisher Stuart Rothenberg recently declared.
Goeas tells Newsmax: "They've been very professional, very smart, and used the environmental almost in a jujitsu-type move, using the weight of that environment to increase their opportunities. And I think you're going to see the results of that tonight."
GOP strategists are saying that had Democrats opened the purse strings early they could have taken some races off the board by solidifying the advantage many incumbents appears to enjoy even two months ago. Democrats wanted to save their ad dollars for the waning weeks of the campaign, however, when they could be sure the voting public was paying attention.
"When you have a bad environment," GOP consultant Brad Todd told Rothenberg, "waiting does not preserve your options. It just forces you into unacceptable and more expensive choices later."
Democratic operatives, not surprisingly, are pushing back against the notion that they somehow blundered in their approach to the campaign.
"The DCCC's discipline has been important," Democratic consultant David Dixon told Rothenberg. "It's rare you get a knockout punch in September. Our candidates left on the table late – those in 46 to 44 [percent] races – need a strong endgame TV play."
That the second-guessing has already begun over how Democrats handled the campaign is just another indication off the structural problems they faced.
Goeas tells Newsmax that GOP strategists deserve kudos for their tactics, which obviously have paid off.
"The fact that we are going into Election Day with clearly 100 congressional races that are very much in play, I think a lot of credit has to go to them," Goeas says, adding: "Clearly this is the kind of campaign cycle that makes us look a lot smarter than what we are, and makes Democrats look at lot dumber than what they are."
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