Even as the midterm campaign forecast sours for Democrats, several
vulnerable freshman members put up solid fundraising numbers in the
second quarter of the year.
Of the 12 congressional seats held by freshman Democrats rated as pure "toss ups" this year by Charlie Cook, a majority of them ended the quarter leading their Republican opponents when it comes to the all-important cash on hand number.
Of the group, Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), who has been in the sights of national Republicans since he won narrowly in 2008, had the most impressive quarter. He raised $660,000 from April through June, and his campaign reported more than $1.7 million cash on hand.
His Republican opponent, state Sen. Robert Hurt, raised $261,343 from May 20 through the end of June. For the second quarter, Hurt totaled just over $376,000. He did have to endure a multi-candidate primary, which he won May 19.
Hurt's campaign reported $215,954 cash on hand and debts totaling more than $85,000.
In Michigan, Rep. Mark Schauer (D) raised a healthy $405,415 during the second quarter and his campaign reported $1.6 million cash on hand.
Those numbers place Schauer well ahead of any potential Republican rival at this point in the cycle. Republicans face a three-candidate primary Aug. 3 between Tim Walberg, Brian Rooney and Marvin Carlson.
In another toss-up district held by a freshman Democrat, Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Va.) was able to best his GOP challenger. Nye raised some $326,000 for the quarter and reported more than $1.2 million cash on hand.
His Republican opponent, Scott Rigell, raised more than $579,000 during the second quarter, but burned through most of it. He reported just $226,970 cash on hand as of June 30.
In Maryland's 1st Congressional District, the fundraising tally was much closer, but freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil (D) still bested Republican Andy Harris.
Kratovil raised more than $390,000 and reported $1.3 million cash on hand. Harris raised $371,000 and reported just over $896,000 on hand.
In Nevada, Rep. Dina Titus's July report showed just over $291,000 raised and her campaign reported $1.2 million cash on hand. For the entire second quarter, Titus raised just under $426,000. Republican challenger Joe Heck raised more than $250,000 for the quarter and reported $362,138 on hand.
Democratic Reps. Betsy Markey (Colo.), Alan Grayson (Fla.) and Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.) all finished the quarter with more than $1 million cash on hand.
A couple of Democratic freshman in the pure toss-up group were unable to come out on top for the quarter — Reps. Mary Jo Kilroy (Ohio) and Steve Driehaus (Ohio). Both incumbents had underwhelming fundraising quarters against strong GOP opponents.
Kilroy raised just $229,956 for the quarter to $532,687 for Republican Steve Stivers. The contest is a re-match of the closest race in the country in 2008, when Kilroy bested Stivers by just over 2,300 votes.
Despite the lackluster quarter, Kilroy did report $933,626 cash on hand. Stivers has more than $1.2 million in the bank.
In Ohio's 1st Congressional District, Driehaus raised $230,321 to challenger Steve Chabot's $306,312. Driehaus reported $973,266 cash on hand; Chabot reported just over $1 million.
Where the cash advantage exists it's one most of these freshman Democrats are going to need to hold off their Republican challengers come November. Despite the early financial leg-up some freshman Dems hold, they still face a poor electoral environment for Democrats and a turnout dynamic that heavily favors the party out of power.
The Democratic National Committee has pledged to spend more than $50 million this fall on get-out-the-vote efforts.
Democrats are desperately seeking some good news as to their party's prospects in 2010 as evidenced by the spat between the White House and congressional Democrats that erupted this past week.
Last Sunday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged on NBC's "Meet the Press" that "there's no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control."
The comments created a firestorm in Democratic circles, leading to a number of lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and several of the party's top strategists, calling Gibbs out publicly for the remarks.
In a polling memo Thursday, the DNC argued that 2010 is not shaping up like 1994, when the party lost control of the House for the first time in more than 40 years.
"In fact, Democrats today are in a greater position of strength than Democrats in 1994 or Republicans in 2006," the memo read. "Democrats have real accomplishments that benefit middle class families and small businesses to campaign on, an economy that is once again growing and creating jobs and a public that still remembers the disastrous consequences of failed Republican policies that cut taxes for the wealthy, cut rules for big corporations and cut the middle class loose to fend for themselves."
—Updated at 1:05 p.m.