Congressional diary: Republican fundraising, Colorado's toss-up

The dominant theme of this year's battle for the House has been the Republicans' massive fundraising deficit. With the NRCC in a financial hole and trailing their Democratic counterparts, they have tried their best to recruit self-funding candidates who will not need the help of the national committee and they have had to choose carefully which districts they invest in; right now, for instance, they are failing to answer the DCCC's increased spending in LA-06's special election.

The GOP's financial woes, then, is as big a factor protecting the Democratic majority this year as the Democrats' continued structural advantage due to the economy and Iraq. It is thus with particular interest that we waited for the House committees' March fundraising totals. The NRCC doesn't necessarily have to close the gap, but they do have to pick up their fundraising to not be fully broke as soon as the fall ad wars start.

The totals are in, and the NRCC has raised $7 million in March, a possible sign of a slight pick-up ($8 million were raised in January-February); the NRCC has $7.1 million of cash-in-hand. But they are trailing the DCCC on both measures, as the Democratic committee raised $10 million in March and has a staggering $44 million of cash-in-hand. That's a truly stunning disparity that will allow Democrats to expand the map and play in many districts that the GOP cannot afford to defend.

One source of frustration for Republicans has been the reluctance of their House members to donate to the NRCC. House Minority Leader Boehner tried to remind House Republicans of their duty, particularly those high up on the leadership ladder, but The Hill reports that many high-ranking Republicans have failed to contribute from their campaign coffers to the NRCC; Democrats have been much more enthusiastic, which accounts for part of the fundraising difference.

In other House news, Democrats are somewhat surprisingly looking to campaign in ID-01, one of the most Republican districts in the country. Rep. Bill Salli won an open seat in 2006 by only 5% against Democrat Larry Grant, a favorite of the netroots; Sali emerged as a highly controversial figure with whom many Republicans in his own state preferred not to be associated. But his victory seemed to guarantee that he would not be challenged for a while, as it is usually nearly impossible to dislodge incumbents from such conservative districts. Yet, Democrats have added former Senate candidate Walt Minnick to their "Red to Blue" program after he became their party's nominee last week. Minnick has outraised Sali through the cycle and has 3 times his cash on hand, an impressive feat for a little-known challenger from such a marginal district.

Finally, Colorado Senate polls keep coming and still show a toss-up between Democrat Mark Udall and Republican Bob Schaffer. Rasmussen released a poll earlier this week that had Udall up 3%, 45% to 42%; this is the same margin Rasmussen had found last month. Both candidate's favorability rating is in decline, suggesting that the reciprocal attacks are taking their tolls but that neither candidate is being affected more than the other, somewhat of a surprise given that Democrats were hoping that the Denver Post's recent story on Shaffer's very close ties to Jack Abramoff would hurt his electoral prospects.

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