- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2005

With President Bush’s popularity having taken a major hit in recent months, his ability to help fellow Republicans running for the Senate next year has diminished.

It was quite telling, for example, that two-term Pennsylvanian Rick Santorum, who faces a major battle to retain his seat, avoided the president’s Veterans Day speech in Tobyhanna, Pa. By contrast, during the 2002 midterm elections, when Republicans regained majority status in the upper chamber of Congress, the president played an indispensable role. While Mr. Bush, for now at least, cannot be as helpful on the hustings as he would like to be, he nonetheless retains unparalleled ability to assist his fellow Republicans on the fund-raising front. Early indications strongly suggest that this help should be intensified sooner rather than later.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) recently released Senate fund-raising data covering the first nine months of the 2005-06 period for the 33 Senate seats up for election next year. The report also included fund-raising figures for the 2001-04 period for the 14 Democrats and 14 Republicans seeking re-election to the Senate.

The FEC cautions that comparisons across election cycles are “problematic,” largely due to the different states involved and the random appearance of self-financed candidates capable of spending tens of millions of dollars. Still, some numbers are worth noting. Altogether, Democrats running for the Senate raised $73.6 million during the first nine months of 2005, compared to $52.9 million by Republicans. The 14 Democratic incumbents raised $53 million, which is 42 percent more than the 14 Republican incumbents raised. The 16 Democratic challengers raised an average of $725,000.

New York’s Sen. Hillary Clinton alone raised more than $15 million from January through September, bringing her total campaign receipts for the 2001-06 cycle to $27.2 million — and counting. The three Republicans vying for New York nomination have together raised less than $2 million. During the first nine months of the 2005-06 cycle, Mrs. Clinton has already raised more money than New York Sen. Charles Schumer raised ($11.5 million) throughout the entire 2003-04 period. Just imagine the size of her bank account next November, on the eve of making public her decision on seeking the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

As for the national committees, at the end of September, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had $19 million in cash on hand, which was more than double the $9.4 million in cash held by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

It is still very early in the 2006 campaign for control of the Senate. Clearly, however, Republican candidates could use whatever additional help the White House can provide in the fund-raising battle. It is never too early for that, a fact Mrs. Clinton understands all too well.

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