Democrats gain early fundraising edge

Congressional Democrats are leveraging their online fundraising edge and 2012 campaign wins to generate big money early in the 2014 election cycle.

Both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee outraised their GOP counterparts by wide margins in the first three months of 2013.

The DSCC nearly doubled the National Republican Senatorial Committee in fundraising, bringing in $13.7 million to the NRSC’s $6.9 million. 

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The DCCC outraised the National Republican Congressional Committee $22.6 million to $17.5 million. Both Democratic committees also have cash-on-hand advantages.

Strategists in each party say the Democrats’ edge is driven by a huge advantage in Internet fundraising and small-dollar donations, as well as a higher level of enthusiasm following gains in the 2012 election.

“We’re still very behind on online fundraising. That’s pretty much the difference,” said one national Republican strategist. “With our major donors and PACs [fundraising] is going really well, but in small-dollar online donations we’re still way behind. And [post-election] fatigue too, that’s what we’re seeing here as well.”

The strategist said the fundraising problems were “systemic” across the GOP.

  Adding to Republican fundraising woes: Many of the GOP’s vulnerable candidates are lagging far behind endangered Democrats in upcoming races. 

Nine out of the 10 Senate Democrats facing potentially tough reelection battles raised more than $1 million in the last three months. The 10th vulnerable Democrat, Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), fell just short of that mark. 

The GOP has yet to find candidates to oppose many of those Democrats.  One early GOP Senate recruit, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), brought in a solid $900,000. But another, former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds (R), raised just $180,000.

Most vulnerable House Democrats put up strong fundraising numbers as well. 

Some House Democrats facing tough races raised more than $500,000, many surpassed $300,000 and nearly all surpassed $200,000. 

Several at-risk House Republicans struggled.

Reps. Gary Miller (Calif.), David Valadao (Calif.), Kerry Bentivolio (Mich.), Steve Southerland (Fla.) and Richard Hanna (N.Y.) all raised less than $100,000 in the past three months, while a number of other Republicans facing tough races fell short of $200,000.

Democrats argue that part of the GOP’s problem is its dependence on outside groups. 

Organizations like American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS outspent the NRSC in the last election cycle, and some Republicans have privately said their side’s reliance on those efforts likely hurt their efforts in 2012.

“Republicans have outsourced their campaigns and the funding of the campaigns to the third-party groups, the independent groups,” DSCC spokesman Matt Canter said.

“Republican Senate candidates have a problem picking up the phone and asking for $1K when they know Karl Rove can go ask for $1 million. They feel a sense of entitlement that the super-PACs will do it for them.”

The NRSC fired back.

“We’re confident we’ll have the resources needed to win in 2014,” NRSC spokeswoman Brook Hougesen said.

Republicans point out that the NRSC was slow to hire fundraising staff after Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) took over the committee, getting them off to a sluggish start this year. 

The NRSC doubled its $1.5 million January haul with $3.1 million in March.

There’s one significant exception to the fundraising trend: The Republican National Committee outpaced the Democratic National Committee — $6.4 million to $5.7 million — for the first three months of the year. 

The DNC’s quiet fundraising could be due to Democrats’ focus on fundraising for President Obama’s second inauguration.

Another factor could be the newly constituted Organizing for America, an outside group led by many former Obama campaign staffers.  OFA brought in $4.9 million in the first three months of the year and could be competing with the DNC for donors.