Democrats aren’t winning back the House. So how are they raising so much money?


In this Dec. 21, 2012, file photo, Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) listens during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Basically nobody is giving House Democrats any real chance of winning the majority this year. And yet, the committee in charge of doing just that, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), continues to lap the competition in fundraising.

These two things, to put it mildly, do not generally go together.

When you're in the minority, after all, you have less power. People therefore have less incentive to give you money, and that goes double when you have basically no shot at returning to power after the election in question. (Not to mention when there's a far more compelling contest on the other side of the Capitol, for the U.S. Senate.) Committees also rely heavily on contributions from their members, and when you have fewer members — the GOP currently leads in that category 233-199 — that means less money.

Still, House Democrats' fundraising operation remains the best in the  business, outraising the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) $106.5 million to $85.8 million so far this year.

How have they done it?

Answer: Online, small-dollar fundraising.

First, here's a breakdown of overall party fundraising in recent cycles. What you'll notice is that, when Republicans controlled the House in the mid-2000s, they far outraised Democrats. Democrats then took over the House and the fundraising lead in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles. When they lost the House, though, Democrats managed to maintain their fundraising edge in the 2012 and now the 2014 election. And in fact, they raised more in 2012 than they did when they were in the majority.

NRCCvsDCCC

That's where small-dollar contributions come in.

In this area, the DCCC continues to be the envy of the political party committees. So far this year, more than 40 percent of the DCCC's money has been raised from contributions that are less than $200. Over at the NRCC, it's less than 20 percent.

That's not the way it always was. As recently as the 2010 election cycle, Republicans actually led Democrats in this area. But over the past two cycles, Democrats have taken a two-to-one advantage.

DCCCsmalldollar

In raw dollars, the DCCC's small-dollar operation has pulled more than two and a half times as much as the NRCC this cycle. It has also raised far more from these kinds of donors than the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), which is trying to protect its majority and has raised a little less than $30 million from small-dollar donors.

The DCCC is using its small-dollar advantage to outpace all three other congressional campaign committees in overall fundraising.

AllCommittees

None of this is to say that House Democrats might have a shot at winning the majority this year; that seems pretty unlikely at this point. And given the GOP's big advantage on the nationwide congressional map, Democrats will be hard-pressed to win back the majority anytime this decade, really.

But winning the fundraising battle from their position is no small feat. And they continue to do it.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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