The Wallet-to-Wallet Chasm

Laura Bush running for the Senate? Never, said the president.
Laura Bush running for the Senate? Never, said the president. "Absolutely unlikely," said the first lady, who also addressed other political aspirations. . . . (By Manuel Balce Ceneta -- Associated Press)
By Chris Cillizza and Peter Baker
Sunday, January 22, 2006

Despite a lackluster showing in 2005 elections for the GOP, the Republican National Committee raked in better than $100 million last year and enjoys its largest cash-on-hand lead over its Democratic counterpart in more than a decade.

For the year just passed, the RNC brought in nearly $102 million -- give or take a few hundred thousand -- and had $34 million in the bank. The Democratic National Committee raised $51 million in 2005 but showed $5.5 million on hand at the end of the year.

That cash disparity, which has led to grumbling and fretting by some people in the Democratic establishment, will be a major asset come November, RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman argued.

"There's no question it's an advantage," he said. "We are in a position to be able to maintain majorities in the House and Senate by providing campaigns with the resources they need to be successful." Under campaign finance laws, the RNC can make unlimited transfers of campaign cash to other Republican national committees.

The Democrats -- led by DNC Chairman Howard Dean -- spent considerable resources in 2005 on resuscitating state parties and now have operatives on the ground in all 50 states. The party also made a successful investment in helping fund efforts to elect Democrat Timothy M. Kaine governor of Virginia.

Mehlman sought to cast the fundraising as the result of the RNC's "balanced approach" of courting large-dollar donors and working to encourage the small-dollar, grass-roots donor base, which grew by 250,000 new voters in 2005, he said.

He pitches in, too, spending seven or eight hours a week on the telephone thanking donors and soliciting contributions. "I'm a big believer [that] if you call and say thank you as well as asking for something, it's a good deal," he said.

In addition to dialing for dollars, Mehlman has crisscrossed the country in search of campaign cash. In 2005, he appeared at nearly 100 fundraising events.

Hawaii Gets a Democratic Senate Contest

No one has ever accused Democratic Rep. Ed Case (Hawaii) of a chutzpah deficit.

Case, who has served in Congress since winning a special election in November 2002, has decided to cast tradition and deference aside, and announced a primary challenge to Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) last week.

"We are in a time of transition in our Hawaii representation in Congress, especially in the Senate," Case said. "This transition requires that we phase in the next generation to provide continuity in that service." Case is 53; Akaka, who was elected the Senate in 1990, is 81.

Case's rise in Aloha State politics has been brisk, thanks in large part to his willingness to defy party leaders.

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