- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

To say it has been a terrible year for the National Republican Congressional Committee is an understatement. On Jan. 1, when House Republicans began their first year since 1994 as the minority party, the NRCC was $14.4 million in debt. Compared to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, whose borrowings during the late stages of the 2006 campaign paid huge electoral dividends in the form of a 31-seat pick-up and a solid majority, NRCC endgame borrowings proved politically futile and merely saddled the erstwhile cash cow with a mountain of debt. After the DCCC outraised the NRCC by nearly $7 million during the first half of 2007 ($36.4 million vs. $29.5 million), the DCCC generated an $11 million fund-raising advantage during the second half of the year ($31.1 million vs. $20.1 million). For the entire year, the DCCC raised $67.5 million, while the NRCC collected less than $50 million.

With only $5.5 million in cash-on-hand at year-end (and a debt of nearly $3 million), the NRCC has become a shadow of its former self. Its net cash position barely exceeded $2.5 million at the end of 2007. By contrast, the DCCC had $35.1 million in cash-on-hand and a debt of $1.4 million, giving it a net cash position of $33.7 million, which was nearly 13 times the size of the NRCC’s. Worth noting is that election-handicapper Charlie Cook currently ranks 10 Republican-held open seats as electoral toss-ups. Not a single Democratic-held seat is ranked so precariously.

In 2005, the most recent “off-election” year, when Republicans held a 30-seat majority in the House and 100 percent of all committee and subcommittee chairmanships, the NRCC raised $65 million, which was 52 percent more than the DCCC’s $42.9 million. During the 2003 “off-election” year, which was the first year that soft-money contributions to national party committees were illegal, the NRCC’s advantage was even bigger: $72.6 million vs. $28.6 million. Thus, a $44 million NRCC fund-raising advantage four years ago suddenly evolved into a DCCC advantage of $18 million in 2007. That’s an annual net change of $62 million.

If the economy enters a recession this year (thus putting most of the 32 Republican-held seats that Mr. Cook ranks as “likely Republican” or “lean[ing] Republican” into the “toss-up” or “lean[ing] Democratic” categories), the DCCC’s large and growing fund-raising and cash-on-hand advantages conceivably could leverage the economic downturn and generate a Republican political defeat this November so large that the 2006 debacle would seem like the good old days.

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