The Fix: Dem committees hold big cash lead over GOP

By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 21, 2010; 8:51 AM

1. The three Democratic campaign committees ended March with approximately $22 million more in the bank than their Republican counterparts, a financial edge that party strategists hope will insulate them from considerable losses in the coming midterm elections.

For the month of March, the Democratic National Committee ($13.5 million raised), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($6 million) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ($9.8 million) collected just north of $29 million.

By contrast, the Republican National Committee ($11.6 million), National Republican Senatorial Committee ($5 million) and the National Republican Congressional Committee ($8) million brought in roughly $24 million for the month.

The widest cash on hand differential between committees was in the House where the DCCC ended March with $26 million in the bank as compared to just $10 million for the NRCC. The closest margin was in the Senate where the DSCC's $17 million on hand outpaced the NRSC's cash total by just $2 million.

As always, the release of the numbers were quickly followed by spin on what they meant for the midterms.

"House Democrats' grassroots individual donors are energized by passage of health insurance reform, while Republican Leader John Boehner and House Republicans are focused on shaking down Wall Street and K Street for campaign contributions," said a DCCC spokesperson.

NRSC communications director Brian Walsh penned a memo to reporters making clear that while his committee did trail Senate Democrats in cash on hand, it was by a far smaller margin than in cycles past. "Considering the Democrats control the White House and have 59 Senators, shouldn't the trend be going in the opposite direction, instead of so rapidly in the Republicans' direction?" Walsh asked.

The simple fact is that money matters hugely in campaign politics but it only matters to a point. The stronger the national wind is blowing in Democrats' face, the less their financial advantage will matter.

One needs only to go back to the 2006 election cycle where national Republicans went into the fall confident that their financial edge would allow them to beat back the growing anti-Bush/anti-GOP sentiment in the electorate. They were wrong -- losing 31 seats and the House majority with it.

Democrats are doing everything they can to build a financial firewall against which any Republican electoral wave will crash. But, recent history suggests that there are some waves that no wall can hold back. It's too soon, however, to accurately predict whether that wave is building in advance of November.

2. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is spending another $55,000 on a new television ad in the Hawaii special election, bringing their total investment in the seat to roughly $140,000, according to FEC records.

The latest DCCC commercial -- the committee's second in advance of the May 22 special election -- hits Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou (R) for his opposition to a plan that "protected the jobs of 2,000 Hawaii teachers and staff." The ad's narrator urges viewers to check out Djou's "troubling record" on education at

The ad was produced by Democratic media consultant David Dixon. Dixon along with pollster Mark Mellman and Robby Mook, the DCCC's political director, are heading up the independent expenditure effort in Hawaii.

Djou is also up with a new ad that says national Democrats are attacking him because "I've always stood up to the old boy network and put Hawaii's interests first." Djou pivots in the ad to attack state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa (D) and former Rep. Ed Case (D) for backing tax increases and "wasteful government spending".

The National Republican Congressional Committee has yet to spend any money on the race and, in a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) did his best expectation-lowering about the contest; "I think it's really important that these are Democratic seats and drawn for Democrats," he reminded reporters.

Still, with polling that shows Djou ahead and with Democrats growing increasingly frustrated with the fact that neither Hanabusa nor Case have any intention of getting out of the race, the Hawaii special is shaping up as a golden opportunity for Republicans.

And, to quote Ric Flair, "to be the man, you have got to beat the man." Republicans need a win -- and soon -- to break House Democrats' streak of five straight contested special election victories.

3. New CNN polling shows that a majority of Americans expect President Obama to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens with someone of a liberal bent.

One in three said that Stevens' replacement will be "very liberal" while 28 percent said they expected someone who is "somewhat liberal" to fill the slot. Just 16 percent said they expected Obama to pick a person for the bench who is either somewhat (seven percent) or very (nine percent) conservative.

Asked what sort of person -- ideologically -- they would like Obama to pick, 25 percent said liberal, 37 percent said moderate and 36 percent said conservative. Those numbers generally mirror the public sentiment when CNN asked the same question about what sort of justice then President George W. Bush should select in October 2005. At that time, 24 percent said a liberal, 34 percent said a moderate and 37 percent said a conservative.

What the constancy in those numbers suggest is that who you think the president should pick is dependent on your own ideological leanings. The polling also suggests that most people expect Obama to replace Stevens, a liberal, with another liberal, which is, of course, what he will almost certainly do.

4. Maine state Senate President Libby Mitchell holds a 20-point lead in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, according to a poll conducted for her campaign.

Mitchell took 36 percent to 16 percent for state Attorney General Steve Rowe and 13 percent for two-time congressional candidate Pat McGowan in the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll. No other Democrat received double digit support.

Much of Mitchell's lead is attributable to being the best known candidate in the race. More than two thirds (68 percent) of voters recognize her name with 44 percent expressing a favorable view of her and just 10 percent voicing an unfavorable opinion. Rowe, by contrast, was recognized by just 40 percent of Democratic primary voters while 45 percent said they knew McGowan's name.

Mitchell, who has served in the state legislature since 1974, drew national headlines last month when she won the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton. Clinton appointed Mitchell to a post as chairwoman of the Federal Home Loan Bank in Boston.

An even dozen candidates -- five Democrats, seven Republicans -- are in the race to replace term limited Gov. John Baldacci (D) with the fields to be weeded out in June 8 primaries.

Both national parties believe Maine is winnable for them but until the primaries produce candidates, it's a very difficult race to handicap.

5. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) is, as we've written, taking a very different approach to his planned 2012 presidential campaign than the one he employed in his 2008 race.

The Associated Press' indispensable Glen Johnson penned a piece this week that captures the differences in Romney perfectly -- and must be read by any political junkie worthy of the name.

"Since losing his presidential bid in 2008, Romney has gone West Coast," writes Johnson. "It's part of a personal and political repositioning as he looks to avoid campaign trouble spots and reorder his life ahead of a second White House campaign in 2012."

Among the changes: Romney currently lives in La Jolla, Calif. although he and his wife, Ann, are in the process of buying a home in Massachusetts; he has eschewed the button-downed look for a more casual dress code; and, perhaps most importantly, he is no longer the do-everything-be-everywhere candidate of 2008.

When potential 2012 candidates rushed to get behind Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in the special election last year in New York's 23rd district, Romney stayed out. (Hoffman lost.) When aspiring pols gathered in New Orleans recently for what was widely regarded as the first cattle call of the 2012 race, Romney skipped it.

By picking his spots, Romney is trying to distinguish himself from what looks to be a crowded Republican field for president. Freed from the burden of trying to introduce himself to wary voters -- a process that took up the better part of 2007 for Romney -- the former Massachusetts governor is laying in wait, doing enough to maintain his frontrunner status but not too much to risk overexposure.

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