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Republicans fundraising rivals Democrats for midterm congressional races

By T.W. Farnam and Aaron Blake
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 17, 2010; A04

In a reversal of fortune, Republican candidates for key House and Senate races raised more money than Democrats in the second quarter of this year, according to financial reports filed late Thursday night.

The reports show that Republicans will have the money to compete in the fall elections, coming back from a severe shortage during the last election cycle. However, Democrats still have significantly more money in the bank than Republicans.

Republican House candidates raised $86.4 million last quarter, an increase of 25 percent over the first three months of the year. Democrats running for the House were able to close some of the gap from the first quarter, increasing their totals by 30 percent to $78.7 million. During the second quarter of the 2008 election year, Democratic House candidates raised 27 percent more than Republicans. This time, the GOP has brought in 10 percent more than Democrats.

For the Senate, Republicans out-raised Democrats in all but one of the 13 races to fill seats left open by retirements or primaries. In Ohio, former George W. Bush Cabinet official Rob Portman raised $2.7 million compared with Democratic Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher's $1 million. In Missouri, Rep. Roy Blunt raised $2.2 million compared with Democrat Robin Carnahan's $1.5 million. And in Pennsylvania, former representative Pat Toomey (R) raised $3.1 million compared with Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak's $2 million.

Most threatened Democratic senators -- including Patty Murray (Wash.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Russ Feingold (Wis.) -- were able to raise much more than their Republican challengers. In Nevada, however, "tea party" favorite Sharron Angle raised $2.6 million, slightly more than the $2.4 million Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought in. Still, Reid has far more money available for the election. He has about $9 million in the bank; Angle has just $1.8 million.

Other Democrats have built similar cash reserves that give them an advantage despite recent GOP fundraising gains. Democrats in the House have $259.9 million compared with $173.7 million for the GOP. The Democratic Party committees focused on congressional races have fallen behind their blockbuster totals from the previous cycle, but still remain ahead of the Republicans. At the start of June, the Republican Party committees had $30.2 million on hand for House and Senate races compared with $46.2 million for Democrats.

The volatile political environment and anger at both parties have put as many as 15 Senate seats in play, forcing party leaders to spend their money carefully.

Democrats have a significant cash advantage in California, where statewide campaigns are very costly. Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer raised $4.6 million, the most money of any candidate, and has $11.3 million in the bank compared to less than $1 million for Republican Carly Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard chief executive.

Democrats are hoping they don't have to use party resources to shore up Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general facing businesswoman Linda McMahon, who has already spent $21.5 million of her own money in the race.

The top fundraiser for a House race last quarter was Republican Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who raised $1.7 million. Her opponent, Minnesota lawyer Tarryl Clark, raised the second-highest total among Democrats, $912,000. Pennsylvania Rep. Mark Critz brought in $1.1 million in the quarter while winning a special election.

Former Army officer Allen West, a Florida Republican running against incumbent Democrat Ron Klein, had the second-highest total among House candidates, $1.4 million. West raised more than twice as much as Klein, who is one of the strongest fundraisers in the House.

Republicans point to West as one of 23 Republican House challengers who raised more than the Democratic incumbents they face. In Columbus, Ohio, Republican Steve Stivers raised $588,000, more than double current Democratic Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy. In southern Indiana, Republican prosecutor Todd Young raised $386,000 compared to incumbent Rep. Baron Hill's $296,000.

It's unlikely that Democrats will lose seats due to lack of funds, however. More than 50 targeted Democratic incumbents had over $1 million in the bank, and only eight Republican challengers had that much.

"Republicans don't have to match Democratic spending," said Nathan Gonzales, an analyst with the Rothenberg Political Report, a nonpartisan newsletter. "They just have to have enough to get their message out."

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