With solid fundraising, GOP looks to stretch House field even further

Republicans appear in position to stretch the House playing field even further ahead of November's midterm elections. 

Strong fundraising numbers in some competitive districts that have been leaning Democratic and an independent-expenditure cash infusion from GOP-friendly outside groups is putting wind behind the GOP sails.

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Rep. Gene Taylor's (D-Miss.) seat was considered safe just a few months ago, but his Republican challenger, Steven Palazzo, posted a solid number in the third quarter, raising more than $311,000. It's not a huge haul, but it should serve to kick Taylor into gear — the incumbent raised just shy of $160,000 from July through September. 

In Connecticut, Republican Dan Debicella put up a big quarter against Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) in a district that was considered only marginally competitive. A state legislator, Debicella raised more than $800,000 compared to just over $575,000 for Himes, who retains about a $130,000 edge in cash on hand. 

The Democrat's campaign notes that it had already reserved some $800,000 in TV airtime at the end of the summer for the month of October. 

Republican Vicky Hartzler was able to outraise longtime Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) this quarter, providing further validation that the House Armed Services Committee chairman could be in real trouble next month. Even though Skelton holds a $100,000 cash-on-hand lead, he managed to raise just $413,000 from July through September. 

In Virginia, Republican Keith Fimian raised more than $1 million in the third quarter for his challenge to Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyBrindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees Overnight Defense: Protests at Trump's NYC Veterans Day speech | House Dems release Pentagon official's deposition transcript | Lawmakers ask Trump to rescind Erdogan invite Bipartisan House members call on Trump to rescind Erdoğan invitation MORE (D), who managed just $420,000.  

And despite some significant national attention on his race, Rep. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Ind.) was outraised by his GOP challenger, Jackie Walorski, in the third quarter. Walorski raised some $545,000 to Donnelly's $323,000. She also has about a $60,000 cash-on-hand edge. 

The one positive for these Democrats is that most still hold the edge in cash on hand. Connolly reported $1.4 million to Fimian's $1 million on hand. 

Still, Republicans clearly hold the fundraising momentum, and outside groups plan millions in new spending on contested House districts from now through Election Day. It also comes against the backdrop of Republican challengers outraising Democratic incumbents in the vast majority of toss-up House districts in the third quarter.  

Republicans also hold a cash advantage in at least three key open-seat House races. In the race to fill retiring Rep. David Obey's (D-Wis.) seat, Republican Sean DuffySean DuffyOn The Money: Trump seeks to shift spotlight from impeachment to economy | Appropriators agree to Dec. 20 funding deadline | New study says tariffs threaten 1.5M jobs Ex-Rep. Duffy to join lobbying firm BGR Trump's defenders are running out of options MORE didn't outraise Democrat Julie Lassa, but his cash-on-hand total tops hers by more than $300,000. 

Republican Rick CrawfordRichard (Rick) CrawfordThis week: House kicks off public phase of impeachment inquiry House Republicans add Jordan to Intel panel for impeachment probe Republican Congressman: DNI Nominee committed to declassification transparency MORE has more cash on hand in the race to fill Rep. Marion Berry's (D-Ark.) open seat, and Republican Dan BenishekDaniel (Dan) Joseph BenishekRepublican groups launch final ad blitz in key House battlegrounds Tea Party class reassesses record Michigan Republican to retire MORE has more than $300,000 in the bank to Democrat Gary McDowell's $182,000 in Michigan's 1st district. 

In all three cases, Democrats actually out-raised their Republican rivals in the third quarter, but all appear in need of a cash infusion from the national party for the campaign's stretch run.  

There were still some notable fundraising flops in the third quarter for Republican candidates in races where the national party is suddenly bullish on potential pick-ups. The spotlight may suddenly be on Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), but his Republican challenger is in serious need of a cash infusion. Ruth McClung raised just $101,000 in the quarter and reported a paltry $29,938 cash on hand. 

It's certainly still possible that Republican donors will tune in to the race with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee now running ads to buck up the incumbent, but McClung has yet to show any real fundraising strength.     

In New York's 13th district, Republican Michael Grimm raised just $65,000 since the end of August and has less than $200,000 cash on hand. That's likely nowhere near enough to put a real scare into Rep. Mike McMahon (D-N.Y.), who raised $317,000 and is sitting on $1.1 million. 

And down in North Carolina, the campaign of Republican Renee Ellmers, who attempted to gain traction with an ad labeling the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York a "victory mosque," managed to raise more than $264,000 in the third quarter. But with less than $100,000 on hand, she stands at a huge disadvantage to Rep. Bob Etheridge (D), who reported just shy of $450,000 in the bank. 

-Updated at 10:40 a.m.