“I’m preparing as if I’m running for reelection right now. But we’ll see what happens. The next two months are going to be pretty intense,” Dent said.
Dent and New York Republican Rep. Peter King—who said he personally “would never consider it because you can’t give in”—also confirmed that other members have talked about retiring, depending on the outcome of the speaker’s race.
“A lot has been put on hold in both ways—people deciding to run again, or not run again,” King said.
So far, Ryan has said he is not running for speaker, but members are trying to change his mind. If Ryan continues to decline and there’s even more uncertainty about party leadership, it could be a drag on Republican fundraising, Chamberlain said.
“If Ryan says next week that he’ll do it, I don’t think there’ll be a dip at all,” she said. “… If it’s not Ryan, probably there will be a small dip, until we figure out who will come out as the head of the party.”
That’s especially important to Republican groups like Main Street, which was started by former Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio and defends centrist Republicans from primary- and general-election challenges. With a historically large majority, Republicans find themselves defending a high number of moderates who represent districts that favor Democrats, such as Rep. John Katko of New York and Rep. Robert Dold of Illinois.
To help defend that majority, the Republican Main Street Partnership and the Defending Main Street super PAC will spend $10 million to $12 million this cycle, Chamberlain said. But before the groups can defend Republican-held swing districts, they have to defend Republicans against tea-party-aligned primary challengers. The top targets: Rep. Renee Ellmers of North Carolina and Rep. David Joyce of Ohio.
Ellmers, who has three primary challengers, has become such a target that she’s already been at the center of a minor ad war. Main Street’s nonprofit group, Main Street Advocacy, and the leadership-aligned American Action Network ran radio and TV ads, respectively, thanking Ellmers for voting to fund the Homeland Security Department earlier this year. The Club for Growth, meanwhile, ran TV ads against her for voting to renew the Export-Import Bank.
Ellmers also found herself in the national news this month when McCarthy dropped out of the speaker’s race and national media outlets, following conservative news site GotNews.com, reported on rumors of an affair between the two. Both lawmakers denied the affair, and Chamberlain said she’s confident there’s nothing to it.
Still, there’s plenty of ammunition for Ellmers’s opponents: Chatham County GOP Chairman Jim Duncan, former state GOP spokeswoman Kay Daly, and 2014 challenger Frank Roche, whom Ellmers beat by 17 percentage points. Roche announced his candidacy soon after Ellmers led the Republican charge against an antiabortion bill that would ban late-term abortions for rape victims unless they reported the rape to law enforcement. Chamberlain said she expects that vote to be the biggest sticking point in Ellmers’s reelection bid, but said Ellmers is “the most pro-life” of any Main Street member.