- Associated Press - Thursday, May 3, 2012

WASHINGTON — Democratic challengers raised more money than Republican incumbents in 20 competitive House races from California to Virginia during the first three months of the year, and President Obama’s party has the upper-hand in eight other districts where congressmen are retiring.

The early look at fundraising, laid out in reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, suggests momentum at this point may be on the Democrats’ side as the party tries to wrest control of the House from the GOP.

Even so, the amounts candidates themselves have raised so far provide only a slice of the broader campaign-finance picture.

Washington-based campaign committees that work to elect House Republicans and Democrats are sitting on stockpiles of cash they’ll spend on the most competitive races, another area where Mr. Obama’s party at this point has an edge. Outside groups aligned with both parties also are expected to spend millions of dollars to influence the outcome of several dozen competitive races.

Money matters, this year especially.

Candidates and parties alike will need hefty sums to pay for TV commercials and get-out-the-vote efforts that usually are more expensive in a presidential election year.

Democrats were quick to brag about their candidates’ hauls.

“Nobody wants to make a bad investment,” said Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Republicans just as swiftly downplayed the numbers.

“Our Republican members have more money in the bank and are well-positioned for victory in November,” said Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for House Republicans.

Indeed, while Democratic candidates generally have raised more money this year, GOP incumbents have more money in the bank than their Democratic rivals in 16 races where Democrats took in more money than Republicans in the first quarter. In some cases, Democrats’ hauls are also inflated by self-donations that may or may not continue going forward.

And while the DCCC has brought in $83.6 million to the NRCC’s $73.7 million, Democrats have burned through money more quickly. The DCCC had $22.8 million on hand, compared with $27.1 million for the NRCC when the fundraising quarter ended in March.

Republicans control the House, 242-190 with three vacancies that were Democrat-held seats. Democrats would need a net gain of 25 — plus hold onto the three vacant seats — to retake control. That push is complicated by once-a-decade redrawing of congressional-district boundaries. The process has made several longtime Democrats more vulnerable and made more Republican the seats of some GOP incumbents that Democrats might otherwise have targeted.

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