WaPo Reports Democrats Closing Fundraising Gap

Today’s Washington Post features an article by Jim Vanderhei on the closing fundraising gap between the Democrats and GOP. Alongside the article are valuable links to Key races, the 2006 primaries , and other resources for information on the 2006 election.

Vanderhei’s report has good news for the Democrats.

“It’s seen as a very competitive election, and the Republicans are very concerned and the Democrats are optimistic,” said Trevor Potter, a former Republican-appointed FEC chairman. “Some money is shifting to what is seen as a possibility of a Democratic win. By and large, people don’t give to losers.”

A surge in small, individual contributions is lifting Democratic campaigns this year and is helping close a Republican fundraising advantage that has existed for years in national politics, according to Federal Election Commission data.

Democratic House and Senate candidates and their two major campaign committees are enjoying stronger grass-roots support than at any time since the GOP took over both chambers of Congress in the 1994 elections, according to strategists from both parties who have reviewed the most recent FEC data released this spring.

The Republican National Committee is lagging behind its totals from two years ago, though it continues to have a financial lead over the Democratic National Committee. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, headed by Sen. Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), has raised more than $50 million this election cycle — $6 million less than its Democratic counterpart.

On the House side, the National Republican Congressional Committee remains ahead of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But the gap is smaller than in the past, and the trends are in the Democrats’ favor. The DCCC had raised 45 percent more through the end of April than it had at the same point in 2004. The NRCC, meanwhile, saw a 13 percent drop over the same period.

A similar story is unfolding in many competitive congressional races. In six of the 10 open House races — in which incumbents are not running — that the two leading nonpartisan political handicappers regard as up for grabs this fall, Democratic candidates are out-raising their GOP opponents, according to data analyzed by the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.

Meanwhile, in contrast to the past few elections, Democratic incumbents in tough races are keeping pace with at-risk Republican incumbents.

Although the gap is only closing according to this article, there are some fundraising efforts it does not address. A comparison of GOP and Democratic PACs would also be of interest in looking at how strong the Democratic fundrasing efforts have been. John Kerry’s Keeping Americas Promise and Democracy for America both have large email lists for fundraising. These PACs are not about contributions to the National Party. Instead, they focus on specific candidates, which holds an appeal to the small contributer who wants to direct their money to a real candidate rather than a party.

DFA requires a candidate be nominated for support by a several area residents and there must supporting information as to why the candidate should be included in the DFA site. An advantage of this kind of fundraising is the ability to notify donors at critical times in during the campaign when the extra money is particularly needed. If an opponent has just run a big ad campaign, the inaccurate ones in particular, the information is passed on to the email list garnering another financial infusion to counter the ad.

Also interesting is an observation on the limits of fundraising, possibly even more important given the effect of gas prices on budgets.

Carl Forti, NRCC spokesman, said Republicans are victims of their own success. He said the NRCC in particular spent so much money on direct mail and other techniques targeting individual donors over the past decade that they essentially “maximized our potential return.”

There are similar campaigns by MoveOn and organizations with more focused issues such as the veterans. State parties contribute to what Ken Mehlman, RNC chairman considers a solid financial lead. The implications of the fundraising shift offers analysis based on past elections.

Amy Walter, a nonpartisan political handicapper for the Cook Political Report, agreed that Republicans’ problems appear to be at the grass roots. “This mirrors the problems Republicans could have with turnout,” she said.

Some of the nation’s biggest companies, which typically invest more in the majority party, might start hedging their bets in the months ahead in case Democrats win back the House, according to a top Bush fundraiser, who requested anonymity. But FEC data do not show an across-the-board shift in business support away from the GOP.

The Republican turnout in November is a big unknown in my mind. The Democrats recently failed to get out enough voters to put Francine Busby in Duke Cunningham’s vacant seat. Given the light turnout and her loss by about 5%, this is really a warning for the Democrats to work harder.

The fundraising will continue until the last days of the campaign and that has a long way to go. Among the options I have received is the opportunity to pledge a small donation per month. A significant advantage for the candidates to use in planning strategy.

In closing, Vanderhei notes;

One of the biggest surprises of this campaign season is the fundraising performance of Democrats in open House and Senate races, which are often the most competitive because the incumbent is not seeking reelection. In recent elections, Republicans held a decisive fundraising edge in these contests. Not this time. In Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, which handicappers consider among the most competitive in the nation, Democrat Gabrielle Giffords has raised almost $600,000, more than twice as much as Republican Steve Huffman.

The overall picture is hopeful and should encourage the folks who want to put their money on a winner. They don’t call it a horse race just because of the results. The money isn’t everything. Campaigns need warm bodies too. Even out of staters can help with GOTV calls and letter writing. Go to the links and check the races. And don’t forget the election reform efforts. There’s a lot to do. 149 days to 11/7,

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