BY MICHAEL BECKEL – As enthusiasm among conservatives surges, embattled Democrats may be placing their faith in the old Washington maxim that money delivers success on Election Day.
In the nation’s most competitive races, Democratic candidates have raised an average of 47 percent more during the entire election cycle than their Republican counterparts — although during the most recent three-month period, the campaign coffers of many Republicans have swelled.
Democratic candidates have also spent an average of 66 percent more than their Republican opponents. And Democrats ended the third quarter with an average about 53 percent more in their war chests than their Republican opponents in these races.
|Raised||Spent||Cash on Hand|
|Advantage||+47% DEM||+66% DEM||+53% DEM|
These tallies are based on a Center for Responsive Politics review of campaign finance reports, through September 30, of the 92 races ranked by political handicapper Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report as “toss up,” “leaning Democratic” and “leaning Republican.”
Races classified as “toss up” by the Cook Political Report are the most competitive, with either party having a good chance of winning. Races classified as “leaning” in the favor of one party or the other are also competitive, but one party is viewed as having at least a slight advantage.
In recent years, House candidates who spent the most money have won their election contests between 93 and 98 percent of the time, as the Center has previously noted.
Republicans need a net gain of 39 seats to regain control of the House, and many election observers are predicting such advances, and then some.
Candidates themselves, however, aren’t the only ones spending big bucks in their congressional district battles. National party committees and other special interest groups have also invested enormous sums in their attempts to tip the scales in the direction of their preferred candidates.
The Democrats’ national committees — the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — have thus far also seen a monetary advantage over their GOP counterparts, a trend OpenSecrets Blog has previously noted.
Republican-aligned outside groups, meanwhile, have flexed considerably larger muscles than Democratic-aligned groups in terms of independent expenditures and other outside spending.
This outside spending has come via new vehicles including “super PACs,” such as the conservative outfit American Crossroads, which are legally allowed to raise unlimited sums from individuals, corporations and unions to make independent expenditures — a development in the wake the Supreme Court’s high-profile campaign finance ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and another federal court ruling that loosened campaign finance rules in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission.
A flurry of spending has also come this cycle from 501(c)4 nonprofit groups, operations that take their name from the section of U.S. tax code under which they are organized. These nonprofit groups are required to be primarily focused on the promotion of social welfare and are not required to disclose any information about their donors, unlike “super PACs” or regular political action committees.
Nevertheless, in terms of hard money, Democrats in the most competitive races are often fighting for their political lives with financial advantages.
In the 40 House races ranked as toss ups by the Cook Political Report, Democratic candidates have raised an average of 45 percent more than their Republican opponents for the election cycle. In these races, Democrats have also spent an average of 59 percent more so far, and they ended the third quarter with 60 percent more, on average, cash on hand.
|TOSSUPS||Raised||Spent||Cash on Hand|
|Advantage||+45% DEM||+59% DEM||+60% DEM|
In the 20 House races classified as leaning Republican by the Cook Political Report, Democratic candidates have raised an average of 30 percent more than their Republican counterparts. In these races, Democrats have also spent an average of 50 percent more so far. Republicans in these races ended the third quarter with just 3 percent more cash on hand, on average, than the Democrats.
|LEAN REPUBLICAN||Raised||Spent||Cash on Hand|
|Advantage||+30% DEM||+50% DEM||+3% REP|
In the 32 House races categorized as leaning Democratic by the Cook Political Report, Democratic candidates have raised an average of 64 percent more than their Republican opponents. In these races, Democrats have spent an average of 86 percent more so far, and they ended the third quarter with more than twice as much cash on hand, on average, than their Republican counterparts.
|LEAN DEMOCRAT||Raised||Spent||Cash on Hand|
|Advantage||+64% DEM||+86% DEM||+107% DEM|
In Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, freshman Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey has out-raised GOP challenger Cory Gardner by $1 million — $3 million versus $2 million — yet Markey has spent most of that sum already. She ended the third quarter with just $307,800 in the bank, compared to Gardner’s $1.1 million cash on hand. The Cook Political Report ranks this race as leaning Republican.
In Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, Republican Allen West has out-raised second-term Democratic incumbent Rep. Ron Klein $5.2 million to $3.2 million. West also ended the third quarter with substantially more money in the bank: $1.6 million versus Klein’s $270,500. The Cook Political Report ranks this race as leaning Democratic.
In New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, a Republican challenger has likewise out-raised the Democratic incumbent this cycle and ended the third quarter with more cash reserves. Republican Steve Pearce, who is trying to reclaim the seat he occupied for three terms until unsuccessfully running for a U.S. Senate seat in 2008, has raised about $2.2 million compared to incumbent freshman Democratic Rep. Harry Teague’s $1.9 million. At the end of September, Pearce reported about $885,900 cash on hand, while Teague reported $739,800. The Cook Political Report ranks this race as a toss up.
In New York’s 19th Congressional District, incumbent Democratic Rep. John Hall, who is in his second term, continues to face a steep challenge from Republican Nan Hayworth, who has invested more than $510,000 of her personal funds in her bid against Hall. At the end of the third quarter, Hall retained a slight fund-raising advantage, bringing in $1.68 million since January 2009 versus Hayworth’s $1.66 million (including her personal funds). Yet at the end of the third quarter, Hayworth reported slightly more money in the bank: $455,600 versus Hall’s $410,200. The Cook Political Report ranks this race as a toss up.
In Ohio’s 15th Congressional District, another toss up district, Republican Steve Stivers ended the third quarter with a million-dollar cash-on-hand advantage over incumbent Democratic Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy. Kilroy has raised just $1,200 more than Stivers this cycle: $2,274,300 versus $2,273,100. At the end of the third quarter, Stivers still had about $1.3 million cash on hand, while Kilroy had just $187,900.
In South Dakota’s sole congressional district, Republican Kristi Lynn Noem has out-raised incumbent Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who is in her fourth term. Noem had raised about $18,000 more than Herseth Sandlin at the end of the third quarter, $1,687,400 versus $1,669,400. Noem has reported larger cash reserves at the end of the quarter: $502,000 versus $80,800. The Cook Political Report ranks this race as a toss up.
In Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, another toss up race, six-term Democratic Rep. Ciro Rodriguez ended the third quarter with $173,000 less the bank than his Republican challenger, Francisco Canseco. Canseco reported $281,500 cash on hand while Rodriguez reported $108,200. Rodriguez, however, has out-raised Canseco by $358,000: $1.47 million to $1.11 million.
Download a full report of campaign finance figures for these 92 most competitive races as an Excel spreadsheet for yourself here. HouseQ3.xls (Remember, please use our data, but be sure to credit the Center for Responsive Politics.)
Center for Responsive Politics researchers Douglas Weber and Dan Auble contributed to this report.