GOP Retains Cash Edge Over Resurgent Democrats

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 28, 2006

Democrats continued to raise large amounts of campaign cash this month, but not enough to erase the Republicans' multimillion-dollar lead.

According to the parties' latest financial disclosure statements, Democratic Party committees outraised the national GOP committees during the first 18 days of October. Riding a wave of optimism about the party's chances of gaining seats in the House and the Senate in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, the Democrats' national reelection committees collected $25.9 million in the period. The Republican committees raised $18.6 million in the same period.

In addition, three dozen or more Democrats seeking seats in the House that are occupied by Republicans raised at least $1 million in the current election cycle -- the minimum that, political experts say, would enable a challenger to mount a full-fledged election bid.

Nevertheless, the Democrats' last-minute fundraising surge was not enough to overcome the GOP's earlier fundraising advantage. The three national Republican Party committees had $17 million more cash on hand than their Democratic counterparts as of Oct. 18, according to this week's financial reports.

What's more, Republican committees spent nearly twice as much on their toughest House races than Democratic committees did. The nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute calculated that Republican committees spent $1 million on average to help each of the 35 GOP incumbents who are considered to be most in danger of losing reelection bids. Democratic committees spent an average of about $574,000 on behalf of each of the party's challengers in those races.

In addition, most of the Republican candidates in the House's tightest contests reported having more money in the bank than their Democratic rivals.

With the midterm elections so near, both parties are pouring huge sums into the House's three dozen or so competitive races.

"During the endgame, the parties are spending as much as the candidates themselves," said Michael J. Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute.

Even so, Malbin noted, so many GOP candidates are behind in recent polls that not even their well-funded party committees can afford to expend resources on all of them.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- the party's House reelection organization -- reported raising $6.9 million and spending $25.8 million from Oct. 1 to 18, retaining $17.1 million in the bank. The National Republican Congressional Committee reported $6.6 million in receipts and $27.4 million in disbursements over the same period; it still had $18.3 million available.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $9.1 million and spent $22.5 million from Oct. 1 to 18; it had $9.7 million in the bank. The National Republican Senatorial Committee reported that it collected less than half as much -- $3.6 million -- and dispensed a third as much -- $6.8 million -- from Oct. 1 to Oct. 18, and was left with $8.9 million.

The Democratic National Committee said it collected $10.2 million and spent $13.6 million during the first 18 days of this month. It had $4.8 million in cash as well as $4 million in debt.

The Republican National Committee reported raising $8.4 million and spending $12.9 million during the period. Its cash on hand: $21.8 million.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company