The two House campaign committees entered the final month of the 2004 campaign in strikingly similar cash-on-hand positions as they seek to influence a handful of top races.
The National Republican Congressional Committee had $25.7 million on hand at the end of September, compared to $24.1 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Spending in September revealed much less parity, however, as the NRCC disbursed $17 million compared to $6.5 million for the DCCC.
The NRCC also far outraised the DCCC in September, bringing in $16.9 million to the DCCC’s $9.6 million.
DCCC Chairman Robert Matsui (Calif.) dismissed the spending disparity in September, arguing that his committee has long believed “this is going to be a late-breaking election.”
“Unless they have money hidden someplace we will have more money to spend going into the last weeks of the campaign,” Matsui added.
NRCC Communications Director Carl Forti countered that his organization’s prolonged financial commitment to these races would pay off at the ballot box.
“We have been spending on races for a long time,” said Forti. “[After the] election you will see the massive cash infusion from the NRCC into races will pay very high dividends.”
The vast majority of both committees’ spending went to independent-expenditure television campaigns.
The NRCC is now running commercials in 34 districts; the DCCC is up in 26.
With the House playing field not likely to grow beyond 35 races, the two sides will spend millions of dollars in many of these districts as they fight for control of the House in the 109th Congress.
The narrowness of the playing field seems to favor Republicans’ ability to keep control of the House. The GOP currently holds a 12-seat majority in the House.
Since the reporting period closed at the end of last month, the NRCC and DCCC have continued to spend heavily, drawing down their impressive war chests.
Since the Sept. 30 deadline, the NRCC spent nearly $23 million on independent expenditures, including $6.7 million on Oct. 7 alone.
Democrats sought to portray their fundraising last month — which brought them to within $2 million of their $75 million budget — as a major victory, even though the total was dwarfed by the $169 million raised by the NRCC.
Matsui said he wasn’t surprised by the fundraising totals because “we knew we had our goals to meet.”
He did note, however, that the DCCC had fallen short of its fundraising goal from Members.
“We didn’t hit as much as we wanted to on Members’ dues,” Matsui said. “We asked for $25 million and got a little more than $20 million.”
Through its Battleground 2004 Member giving program, the NRCC raised more than $16 million from the GOP Conference.
DCCC Communications Director Greg Speed was quick to note that the committee had raised $800,000 more than at the same point in 2002 when it was still able to collect soft-money checks in unlimited amounts.
At the end of September 2002, the NRCC had $19.5 million in the bank, compared to $10 million for the DCCC.
On the Senate side, Republicans held a more substantial cash advantage at the end of last month: The National Republican Senatorial Committee had $17.2 million on hand, compared to $8.8 million for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.