Democrats Seen With Financial Edge in Congressional Races

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By Kenneth P. Doyle

Aug. 10 — Democratic candidates for the House and Senate are in better shape financially than they have been for years, according to a new analysis of recent Federal Election Commission reports, though it is still too early to know whether this will translate into Democratic gains in the November elections.

Democratic congressional candidates running for open seats have raised far more, on average, than their Republican counterparts, the analysis of recent FEC reports by the nonprofit Campaign Finance Institute found. In addition, Democratic challengers are doing better than they have in years at fundraising, compared to Republican incumbents.

“There are significant opportunities for Democrats and risks for Republicans,” said Michael Malbin, the CFI's executive director and a professor of political science at the State University of New York in Albany.

“Republicans are playing defense,” Malbin told Bloomberg BNA in a telephone interview.

He said Republicans have more potentially vulnerable seats to defend in the Senate, while the dynamics of the presidential race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton could potentially put Republican control of the House in doubt.

40 House Open-Seat Races

The CFI analysis of FEC reports showed Democratic candidates on average have a substantial campaign fundraising advantage in races for the 40 open House seats up for election this fall. Democrats vying for open seats have raised $635,418 on average through June 30, compared with $368,158 on average for Republicans, according to a table prepared by the CFI.

In addition, Democratic challengers running against 24 vulnerable Republicans raised an average of $1.2 million through June 30. This put the Democrats in a relatively strong financial position against Republican incumbents in these races, who on average have raised more the $2.2 million. Incumbents in the past have often had a bigger advantage in campaign money, the CFI indicated.

Democrats face a high bar, however, if they want to take back the House. Republicans have a membership advantage of 247-188, meaning 30 seats would have to change hands for Democrats to take control.

The Senate, meanwhile, is potentially more in play because Democrats could take control by picking up as few as five seats from Republicans. Republicans are defending 24 Senate seats in 2016, compared with only 10 for the Democrats.

Big Edge for Senate Open Seats

Similar to the situation in the House, the CFI found that in the Senate, Democrats have a big advantage in open-seat races and are competitive in many races involving challenges to Republican incumbents.

The average Senate Democrat in an open-seat race has raised more than twice as much as the average Republican, the CFI found. The average Democratic candidate in these races has raised nearly $2.5 million, compared with about $1 million for the average Republican open-seat candidate, according to a table prepared by the CFI.

In addition, the CFI found, the average Democratic Senate challenger has raised more than one-third as much as the average Republican incumbent through June 30—the highest challenger percentage for either party at this stage of the race going back through 2004. Democratic challengers have raised nearly $2 million, on average, while Republican incumbent senators running for re-election in 2016 have raised an average of nearly $6 million.

The CFI cautioned, however, that comparisons of candidate fundraising don't tell the whole story because candidates are not the only spenders in the competitive congressional races. Political party committees and outside groups are also likely to spend heavily in these races, and Republicans could have advantages in such spending.

NRCC Holds Cash Advantage

For example, the CFI noted that the National Republican Congressional Committee is in a stronger financial position than its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The NRCC had $63.3 million in cash on hand on June 30, compared with $57.3 million for the DCCC. Both committees had raised about $117 million through the first 18 months of the 2016 election cycle, according to a CFI table.

The situation is different for the Senate campaign committees, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The DSCC has outraised its Republican counterpart, $104.5 million to $71.7 million, and holds a cash-on-hand edge of $29 million to $26.4 million.

That gap could be closed however, by the Senate Leadership Fund, a super political action committee linked to Republican Senate leaders, according to the CFI. The Republican super PAC has raised $20.2 million through the end of June and had $17.9 million in cash. The main Democratic Senate super PAC, the Senate Majority PAC, raised more—$23.9 million—but had only $4.2 million in cash on June 30.

There are also super PACs linked to Republican and Democratic leaders in the House, and here Democrats have the edge, so far. The CFI said $17.9 million was raised by the Democrats' House Majority PAC, with $13.2 million left in cash on hand June 30. That compared to $6.8 million raised and $6 million in cash for the main Republican super PAC linked to House leaders, the Congressional Leadership Fund.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at

For More Information

Go to the CFI's website to read more about the group's analysis of finances in congressional races:

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