With large fundraising advantage, Republicans expand the number of targeted races

House Republicans released their "Pledge to America" on Thurs., Sept. 23. The release of the 21-page plan came with far less fanfare than the 1994 announcement of the party's "Contract with America."
By Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, October 9, 2010; 12:17 AM

The Republican Party and its allies are using a clear financial advantage to pursue a rare opportunity this year, spreading resources across an unusually large number of races, including many considered safe for Democrats just weeks ago.

The conservative push further endangers Democratic control of the House and Senate in a political environment already highly favorable for the GOP.

Rather than pursuing the usual political strategy of focusing on close races, Republicans and conservative groups have spent money on longshots as well - testing to see whether a nudge can make a sleepy race competitive.

The GOP strategy, enabled by millions of dollars raised and distributed by interest groups, has opened up contests weeks before the Nov. 2 midterm elections and forced the Democrats to ratchet up their defensive spending in many districts.

Republican Party committees and conservative groups have spent $100,000 or more in 77 different House races across the country. By comparison, the Democratic Party and its supporters have spent that much in 43 House races, according to a Washington Post analysis.

The advantage allowed Republicans to take to the airwaves sooner in an attempt to define Democratic candidates; it also means they have spent heavily in nearly twice as many districts as they would need to win control of the chamber.

The pattern is similar in the Senate. The GOP and its allies have spent $1 million or more in 12 separate races; Democrats have spent that much in six.

The GOP's monetary advantage signals a remarkable turnabout from earlier this year, when the political fund balances appeared to favor Democrats strongly. The governing party has received relatively meager help from unions and other sympathetic interest groups, forcing it to be frugal in choosing which races to fund.

Democrats are spending on Senate contests in liberal strongholds such as Washington state, Connecticut and Delaware, even though Democratic candidates there are polling ahead of their opponents. The strategy leaves less cash to fund candidates facing strong Republican challengers in swing states.

In Connecticut, Democrats have spent $500,000 in support of Richard Blumenthal, a Senate candidate once considered unbeatable.

In the West Virginia Senate race, Democrats have put in nearly $1 million in support of popular Gov. Joe Manchin III (D), nearly matching the $1.3 million recently spent by Republicans backing businessman John Raese. Recent polls there have shown the race tied or with Raese ahead.

Despite the GOP advantage, Democratic incumbents who've been fundraising for the past two years gave themselves a head start.

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