It's easy to find excuses for why the Republican National Committee has just $12.8 million on hand as they ready for the fall elections. Early into his chairmanship, Michael Steele was a walking gaffe; a $2,000 charge at a Hollywood bondage club angered donors; the House, Senate, and White House are all in Democratic hands; President Obama has been breaking fundraising records. And last year the GOP ended at $6.7 million in the red. "The Democrats," says party spokesman Doug Heye, "should be cleaning our clock."
They're not. In fact, Republican election committees are seeing a funding revival, fired by voter frustration, anger, and a hope that the conservatives can stage a 1994-style revolt exactly two years after Obama and the Democrats seemed to cement the party's long-term control in Washington. Consider just a few facts. While Steele's bank account is lean, the Democratic National Committee has less than $2 million more on hand. And the Republicans are doing far better raising money than they did in 1994, when they took control of the House and Senate and benefited from lax fundraising laws.
And it's happening elsewhere. Take the National Republican Senatorial Committee. With little hope of taking control of the Senate, their fund raisers should be in unemployment lines, not busy collecting checks, especially from small donors. Two years ago at this point, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had $17.5 million more on hand. But this year the two are practically even, with the Republicans leading with $18.1 million versus $17.6 million. "Considering where we were two years ago, the distance we've closed in the fundraising gap has been remarkable," says an insider. House Republicans are also better off this year than they were in the last election, with $12 million on hand and expectations of a summer surge when their big-donor outreach project kicks in. House Democrats, though, still have a whopping $28 million at the ready. Also for the first time ever, the three Republican committees have formed a joint fundraising group. And Steele gathered with House Republicans at Washington's Nationals Park to raise $270,000 at this week's annual congressional baseball game.
Even Steele's latest gaffe on Afghanistan, which has a broad spectrum of Republicans calling for his resignation, hasn't impacted the party's fundraising which is based more on voter anger than a GOP agenda. A top party source said today: "Regardless, the RNC continues to see strong fundraising numbers, because people are frightened by the Obama/Pelosi agenda. This is why we have out raised the DNC 10 separate months this cycle and have more cash on hand than the RNC had at this point in the historic 1994 cycle."
Not that the Democratic Party is worried, but they do note that they've greatly expanded their operations, while keeping ahead of GOP fundraising and cash-on-hand. Heye's retort: The GOP has spent big too, winning the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races and giving the House and Senate committees $2 million each.