The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Friday reported raising a record $27 million during the three months ending Sept. 30, and entered the crucial final weeks of the election campaign with $25.6 million in the bank, $6.4 million more than its Republican counterpart. The Democrats' House equivalent, looking to stave off a Republican takeover, reported $41.6 million in the bank, more than twice the cash on hand reported by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The money offers a sharp counterpoint to Republican advantages elsewhere in the political landscape. Republican Senate candidates have maintained a slight fundraising edge over Democrats. But the biggest GOP boost has come from outside groups that have spent millions on advertising, much of it in money raised from undisclosed donors in unlimited amounts.
"As Republicans nominate extremists who want to return to the failed Bush economic policies of the past, Democrats are ready to fight," said DSCC executive director J.B. Poersch.
Republicans need to win 10 seats to capture control of the Senate.
The only exception to the Democratic Party financial dominance was the Republican Governors' Association which raised $31 million over three months compared to $10 million for the Democratic Governors' Association. Though that money is used to help gubernatorial candidates, the get-out-the-vote efforts they help finance can benefit party candidates throughout the ballot.
Early financial reports show that Republican candidates in some key Senate races outraised their Democratic opponents during the past three months and had more cash on hand heading into the crucial final weeks of the midterm election campaign.
In the Illinois Senate race, a close contest for President Barack Obama's former seat, Republican Mark Kirk raised $3.12 million for the quarter and had $4.4 million available entering October. Democrat Alexi Giannoulias, who has been getting fundraising help from the president, raised $2.3 million and had $1.16 million in the bank, about a fourth of Kirk's cash on hand.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faced an onslaught of spending from his opponent, Sharron Angle, as he struggles to hold on to his seat from Nevada. Both enter the final stretch of the neck-and-neck campaign with about $4 million each in the bank.
But Angle far outraised Reid, hauling in $14 million during the third quarter and spending much of it.
In close Senate contests, two Democratic incumbents - Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin - stood out from the Senate Democratic field by raising more than their challengers and by having comfortable cash-on-hand cushions.
Boxer received $6.2 million in contributions during the latest quarter, edging out Republican Carly Fiorina, who reported raising $5.9 million. But Boxer has about $6.5 million in the bank - more than three times the amount Fiorina has at her disposal.
Feingold reported $4.2 million in contributions during the July through September quarter, compared to Republican Ron Johnson's $3.3 million. Johnson also gave his campaign $5.3 million from his own pocket. Feingold reported $3.5 million in the bank compared to $2 million for Johnson.
In other Senate fundraising:
- Delaware's Christine O'Donnell, the tea party favorite who upset moderate Republican Rep. Mike Castle in the primaries, raised nearly $3.8 million from late August through the end of September. She reported $2.6 million in the bank, about twice the cash on hand reported by Democrat Chris Coons, who nevertheless holds a strong lead in the polls.
- Missouri Republican Senate candidate Roy Blunt reported $3.7 million in the bank at the end of September compared to $2.1 million for his Democratic opponent, Robin Carnahan. In New Hampshire, Republican Kelly Ayotte reported more than $1 million cash on hand; Democrat Paul Hodes had nearly $550,000 in hand at the end of September. Both Democrats represented an opportunity to capture a Republican Senate seat, but Blunt and Ayotte are leading and the Democratic Party has turned its attention to other races.
- In a stark example of the struggles facing Democratic candidates, Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln raised less money than her Republican rival, the first time in her re-election bid that she fell short of her opponent. Incumbents typically hold a strong advantage over challengers. But Lincoln, who trails Rep. John Boozman in the polls, raised about half the $1.65 million that Boozman raised. She had $1.1 million in the bank to Boozman's $1.3 million.
- Another incumbent, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, lagged behind her challenger, Republican Dino Rossi, in both receipts and cash on hand. Rossi raised nearly $4.7 million to Murray's $3.3 million. Rossi had nearly $3.5 million in the bank to Murray's $1.2 million.
Among the races that best illustrate the role of the various financial players is Pennsylvania's closely watched contest. Republican Pat Toomey, a former congressman, raised $3.64 million from July through September and had $2.3 million cash on hand entering October. His Democratic rival, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, raised $3.2 million and had $2.6 million in the bank.
The DSCC has spent $4.7 million against Toomey since August and VoteVets Action Fund, a liberal leaning group, recently purchased $325,000 in cable television time to run an ad against him. Sestak, however, has faced an array of foes who have spent more than $4 million against him. Among them are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rifle Association, the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, a group formed this year with help from GOP guru Karl Rove. That influx of outside money has allowed the National Republican Senatorial committee to conserve, spending only $620,000 so far in the race.
"While we've always expected to be outraised and outspent by the Democrats, the reality is that they've now been forced to abandon a number of their candidates on the campaign battlefield, including Robin Carnahan in Missouri just this week, and have assumed an almost purely defensive posture," said Rob Jesmer, NRSC's executive director.