Both Senate party committees will set fundraising records for the first six months of the year when the second quarter closes today, according to estimates provided by Republican and Democratic sources.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee raked in $8.6 million from April 1 to June 30, bringing its 2003 total to $14.1 million, just $1.5 million less in hard money than they raised in all of 2001.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $5.5 million in the second quarter of 2003, putting their total take for the cycle at $10 million. At the end of June 2001, the committee had raised $7 million in hard dollars.
The NRSC had $5 million in the bank to the DSCC’s $2 million; the Republican committee had no debt while the DSCC has paid down $1.5 million of the $6 million debt it carried into this year.
Both sides pronounced themselves happy with their cash hauls.
“Senator [George] Allen [R-Va.] is very pleased with the amount of support we have received from individuals all across the country,” NRSC spokesman Dan Allen said of the committee chairman. “We are committed to raising the resources we will need for next year.”
DSCC Communications Director Mike Siegel said: “We continue to demonstrate our success and fundraising prowess.”
“Republicans should be able to outraise us,” added Siegel. “They control the presidency, the House and the Senate.”
The Republicans’ financial edge is even more pronounced on the presidential and House levels.
President Bush is slated to report $30 million raised in June alone, more than the entire primary fundraising budget for many — if not all — of the nine Democratic presidential candidates.
In addition, Bush raised roughly $22 million for the NRSC and National Republican Congressional Committee at a May dinner. The $8 million allocated to the Senate committee, a total that does not include the overhead costs associated with the event, is reflected in its June numbers.
On the House side, the NRCC had outraised the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee nearly 4 to 1 in the first five months of 2003, although it retained just $600,000 more on hand than the House Democrats. Its second-quarter reports were not available at press time.
Siegel said his committee is not in a financial race with Republicans and that it is continuing to successfully prosecute its fundraising plan, which is centered on a retail and issue-oriented approach to bringing in dollars.
“We used this quarter as part of a larger fundraising strategy to reach out nationwide to donors,” said Siegel. “A lot of these low-dollar events people are coming to because the Democratic message is a very compelling and a very strong one.”
The broadening of Democrats’ donor base is considered absolutely essential for the long-term financial livelihood of the party following the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.
That legislation banned the raising and spending of soft money by the national party committees, handicapping Democrats who had become dependent on that revenue stream, which could be collected in unlimited chunks.
Republicans have far superior small-dollar donor lists that Democrats must ape in order to remain financially competitive.
In an effort to do so, DSCC Chairman Jon Corzine (N.J.) visited 16 cities to raise money this quarter and hosted three events at his D.C. home, Siegel said.
Corzine, who is independently wealthy, had already given the maximum $25,000 contribution to the committee in the first, though his mother chipped in $25,000 between April 1 and June 30.
A prime example of utilizing the Democratic legislative message on the economy to raise money was a June 9 New York City event featuring six female Senators that raised $350,000 for the DSCC, according to Siegel.
Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Maria Cantwell (Wa.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) hosted the “Women’s Senate Network” conference. Corzine and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (S.D.) were also in attendance.
“People came and wanted to talk about Democrats’ message and policies,” said Siegel. “When we are talking about issues, people are listening and seeing the difference [between the parties].”
Policy battles aside, the raw numbers of the 2004 cycle look daunting for Democrats.
Democrats must defend 19 incumbents while Republican have 15 Senators up for re-election.
The presidential nomination fight further complicates the DSCC’s plans as Sens. John Edwards (N.C.) and Bob Graham (Fla.) are currently pursuing their party’s nod, but are also up for re-election in 2004.
Both seats would be vulnerable if the incumbent Senators choose not to run, and even if Edwards’ presidential bid comes up short, he is likely to face a strong challenge from Rep. Richard Burr (R).
Democrats also must hope that Sens. John Breaux (La.) and Fritz Hollings (S.C.) decide to run in 2004, as either of those seats is a potential takeover for the GOP. Republicans have only Sen. Don Nickles (Colo.) on their retirement watch list.
Sens. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) and Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) have already announced they will not run in 2004.