Freshman Democrats rake in the cash

The 31 House Democratic freshmen raised an average of nearly $120,000 more than their GOP counterparts in the first quarter, according to a review of Federal Election Commission filings.

The newly elected Democrats pulled in an average of $253,000 between Jan. 1 and March 31. Freshman Republicans raised an average of $136,000 in the same period.

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Democrats also enjoy a more than 2-to-1 advantage over Republicans in the amount they have stored in the bank, with the average Democrat sporting $238,000 cash on hand and the average Republican holding just $110,000 in reserve.

Democratic bright spots include Reps. John Adler (N.J.), Dan Maffei (N.Y.), Gary Peters (Mich.) and Jim Himes (Conn.), all of whom raised more than $400,000 in just three months. Those totals could give opponents second thoughts about a challenge.

Democrats' success at pulling in money reflects both a new political reality, as the party finds itself in charge of all three levers of government in Washington, and the stark challenge the party faces in keeping its big majorities. Far more freshman Democrats will find themselves with difficult races next year than will freshman Republicans, partly because many represent districts that recently backed Republicans.

Of the 31 House Democrats serving their first term, 27 are on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's (DCCC) vaunted Frontline program, which seeks to shore up potentially vulnerable members by setting fundraising, media and organizational goals.

Each of the 27 Frontline members raised more than $100,000, with just over half topping the $250,000 mark. All told, Frontline members raised an average of $279,000 in the first quarter.

Rep. Alan GraysonAlan Mark GraysonFlorida's Darren Soto fends off Dem challenge from Alan Grayson Live results: Arizona and Florida hold primaries The Hill's Morning Report: Frustration mounts as Republicans blow up tax message MORE (D-Fla.), who defeated Ric Keller (R) in 2008, brought up the rear of the group, raising just $125,000 during the first quarter. Grayson, who largely funded his own campaign and may do so again, still owes himself more than $3 million, his report shows.

Several of the most vulnerable Democrats all kicked off their reelection campaigns with strong quarters. Rep. Walt Minnick (Idaho) raised $265,000, more than one-tenth of what he spent during his successful 2008 campaign. Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.) pulled in $253,000, a quarter of what she spent to knock off Phil English (R). And Rep. Bobby Bright (Ala.) picked up $220,000, alleviating concerns among some Democrats that the former Montgomery mayor was a weak fundraiser; his first-quarter haul amounts to one-fifth of what he spent last year.
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As Republican strategists pick over the list of Democratic freshmen, prodding for vulnerabilities, Democrats will have a more difficult time finding glaring weak spots among the GOP newbies.

The most obvious target, Rep. Joseph Cao (R-La.), didn't help his cause. Though he raised $143,000 in the first quarter, Cao — who represents a New Orleans-based district that went for President Obama by a nearly 3-to-1 margin — holds just $60,000 in cash reserves.

Another potential Democratic target, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), raised just $142,000 for his 2010 campaign in the last three months. But Luetkemeyer loaned himself plenty of money in his race to replace ex-Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R) and still holds $1.57 million in debt for his 2008 campaign. If Democrats can find a tough challenger for him, Luetkemeyer may dip back into his own coffers.

The 13 Republicans who either beat a Democratic incumbent or were victims of independent expenditures out of the DCCC did better than their freshman GOP brethren, pulling in an average of $175,000 in the first three months. Still, the vast majority of those GOP members — ranging from Reps. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingTrump wants Congress to delay Census deadlines amid pandemic Meadows sets up coronavirus hotline for members of Congress The Hill's Morning Report - Iran strikes US bases in Iraq; Trump to speak today MORE (La.) to Pete Olson (Texas) to Lynn Jenkins (Kan.) — are in districts that lean so Republican it is unlikely they would face similarly strong challenges.

Several members who took over seats their party has held easily showed no great interest in dialing for dollars in the first quarter. Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.), both of whom hold safe Democratic seats, raised just $44,000 and $22,000, respectively.

On the GOP side, eight new members raised less than $100,000 for the quarter, though aside from Rep. Tom Rooney (Fla.), who raked in $73,000, they are not expected to receive serious challenges in 2010.

GOP Reps. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (Utah), Gregg Harper (Miss.) and Phil Roe (Tenn.) all hold seats where Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMomentum growing among Republicans for Supreme Court vote before Election Day McConnell urges GOP senators to 'keep your powder dry' on Supreme Court vacancy McSally says current Senate should vote on Trump nominee MORE (R-Ariz.) beat Obama by huge margins, and all three raised little in the first quarter. Chaffetz pulled in $28,000, Harper raised $14,000 and Roe will contend for the title of least amount raised by an incumbent after picking up just $364 in the first quarter.

Still, Roe may find it necessary to speed up his fundraising in coming quarters. Though Democrats will have little hope of picking up a seat they have not held in more than 100 years, Roe himself ousted the district's last occupant, David Davis, in the 2008 Republican primary.

In total, the early Democratic advantage should come as no surprise, given the prolific number of fundraisers among the party's junior ranks. Freshman Democrats raised an average of nearly $2.1 million during the 2008 cycle, with the typical first-term Republican raising and spending about $1.34 million.

Betsy King contributed to this article.