- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 30, 2006

To capture majority status, Democrats need to gain six seats in the Senate or 15 seats in the House. With less than six weeks to go before Election Day, the cash-on-hand positions of the political parties are becoming as important as their candidates’ views on terror and Iraq.

The economics of politics is taking center stage. Between now and Nov. 7, irrespective of how much additional money is raised, party strategists must still think in terms of relative scarcity. Competing demands for party money will far outweigh the financial resources available. Moreover, each decision to allocate funds has its own opportunity cost.

A late October decision to send $1 million to Rhode Island Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee, for example, would mean that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) would have $1 million less to send elsewhere. While the vast majority of the 435 House seats are safe from partisan competition and a significant majority of the 33 seats being contested in the Senate are likewise impervious to takeover, it remains true that the marginal impact of a single contest could conceivably determine which party controls either chamber. For example, if the Republican candidate had won any one of the five closest Senate races in 2000 (Washington, Missouri, Michigan, Nebraska and New Jersey), Vermont Sen. James Jeffords probably would not have bolted from the Republican Party the following spring, a decision that flipped control of the 50-50 Senate to the Democrats.

At the end of August, the Republican National Committee (RNC) had $39.3 million in cash, nearly four times the $10.9 million in the coffers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Through August in the 2005-06 cycle, the RNC has raised 80 percent more than the DNC ($185 million vs. $103 million). Interestingly, through June 2004 in the previous two-year cycle, the RNC had outraised the DNC by 75 percent ($219 million vs. $125 million). But during the last six months of 2004, the DNC, led by legendary moneyman Terry McAuliffe, outraised the RNC by nearly $100 million ($269 million vs. $173 million) in order to surpass the RNC by $2 million ($394 million vs. $392 million) for the entire 2003-04 cycle. Current DNC Chairman Howard Dean is unlikely to duplicate that feat, especially in a non-presidential year.

In the battle for the House, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) had $36 million in cash on Aug. 31, insignificantly different from the $34.9 million that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had in the bank. For the 2005-06 cycle through August, the NRCC has outraised the DCCC by 44 percent ($124 million vs. $86 million). That seemingly large difference, however, is well below the NRCC’s 100 percent fund-raising advantage for the entire 2003-2004 cycle ($186 million vs. $93 million). On the margin, that plunging advantage could make a big difference.

In the fight for control of the Senate, the NRSC had $18.6 million in the bank on Aug. 31, $11.2 million less than the cash ($29.8 million) in the coffers of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). Through August in the current two-year cycle, the DSCC has achieved a total fund-raising advantage of $12 million ($81 million vs. $69 million). During the entire 2003-04 cycle, the DSCC raised $93 million, $14 million more than the NRSC. However, due in part to the strategic funding-allocation decisions made by then-NRSC head George Allen of Virginia, Republicans gained four Senate seats in 2004 by winning the five tightest races and seven of the nine closest contests.

At the end of August, the collective coffers of the three national Republican fund-raising committees ($93.9 million) exceeded the cumulative bank accounts of their Democratic counterparts ($75.6 million) by $18.3 million.

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