Skip to comments.Facing GOP challengers, Dem fundraisers get spread thin (PA)
Posted on 07/01/2010 5:15:26 AM PDT by randita
Facing GOP challengers, Dem fundraisers get spread thin
Posted By Dan Hirschhorn On June 30, 2010 @ 3:00 pm
Things seemed a lot simpler for Democrats last summer. The political climate had yet to turn violently against them. Viable Republicans had yet to come forward to challenge a host of potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbents. Money wasnt needed everywhere, so there was plenty to go around.
Fast forward a year. Kathy Dahlkemper has an opponent. So do Chris Carney and Tim Holden. Paul Kanjorski faces the same guy hes had to knock off twice. Even Patrick Murphy, Democratic poster-child of the 2006 wave, is looking at a serious race against Mike Fitzpatrick, who he unseated that wave year. Now, not so suddenly having to defend a host of incumbents while still trying to keep up the pressure in Republican districts, the Democratic fundraising class in Pennsylvania is, in many ways, stretched to the limit.
We have to work harder, one fundraiser said. Its that simple. There are more competitive races and more needs. And the people who believe in the mission have to work harder.
State GOP chairman Rob Gleason, with more than a hint of glee, said simply: Weve got them on the defensive.
The party has thought this through, said Gleason, who has sought a larger party role in congressional races . Running for a bunch of offices is a numbers game. The more competitive candidates, the better chance you have of winning.
Interviews with a host of Democratic fundraisers and other party insiders paint a picture of a fundraising community that is simultaneously concerned and cautiously optimisticfearful on the one hand that theres just too much ground to cover, hopeful on the other hand that the passage of health care reform and the likely passage of financial reform will ultimately prove to be political boons. Hopeful that a fragile economic recovery will take hold in time, but worried their candidates will be blamed for an economy that went south on the last presidents watch.
The folks who collect checks and fill living rooms in suburban Philadelphia are picking their spots, hoping for maximum impact on Election Day. And by most accounts, the pace has quickened in recent weeks, with primary battles in the rear-view mirror, calendars filling up with events and Republican pledges to repeal the new health care law motivating Democrats to push back.
Ive seen a huge surge of energy the last few weeks, one Democratic fundraiser said. People really are responding. Theres a surge. Republicans are going to be surprised.
But the challenges for Democrats are real, and the obstacles formidable. Of the 10 House seats pa2010.com considers to be in play in Pennsylvania , seven are held by Democrats and another is being vacated by Democrat Joe Sestak. The only two Republican seats in playJim Gerlachs 6th District and Charlie Dents 15th Districtare races in which the GOP seems ready to hit the mattresses. And competitive races for governor and senate are further dipping into a finite pot of money.
So many races, one fundraiser said, are squeezing money.
As they await the July quarterly fundraising numbers that will soon be published by all federal candidates, Democrats can take heart in a few factors. As of early June, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was sitting on more than twice the cash held by its GOP counterpart, meaning more money to spread around to incumbents and challengers alike. There is a small but growing body of polling data to indicate that, if the economy holds, November might not be quite the disaster Democrats have feared. And with the exception of Pat Meehan in the 7th District and Mike Fitzpatrick in the 8th District, none of the Republican challengers in the state have been able to raise huge amounts of campaign cash on their own.
We have a lot of viable candidates, both challengers and incumbents, and its going to take a lot of cash to help a lot of them get over the finish line, said another Democratic fundraiser. That being said, I think the Democrats this year, mostly because of health care, have a lot of motivation to give.
Whether Democrats will ultimately have the resource to effectively play both offense and defense wont become clear for a few more month. But so many seats in plan has led to a real competition for those, to the delight of Republicans.
Were fully prepared to get outspent two-to-one in congressional races and still win, because in 2006 we outspent them two-to-one and still got beat pretty bad, said Brock McCleary, a regional political director at the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The large number of seats in play cuts both ways, of course, putting pressure on GOP fundraisers to carry the workload. In particular, Republican challengers like Tom Marino in the 10th District and Dave Argall in the 17th District have yet to demonstrate their potency at bringing in the cash.
Were asking a lot of our folks, too, McCleary acknowledged. But we have enthusiasm and optimism on our side, and they dont. So while Democratic donors are doing it out of obligation, ours are doing it because theyre angry and want to change the direction of the country.
Among Democrats, the current dynamic has sparked a quiet debate about just who will be left out in the cold. Incumbents come first, as they always do. And that has led to something of a consensus that if anyone ends up without a chair to sit in, it will be either Manan Trivedi in the 6th District or state Representative Bryan Lentz (D-Delaware). A few months ago, there was a greater consensus that Lentz had the most to lose from the dynamic, fighting for the seat being vacated by Sestak in a race that left Democrats feeling downright bearish. That attitude has changed in recent weeks, aided in part by public relations missteps by Meehan, Lentzs opponent.
Hes now caught on, one Democrat said. Hes got everyones attention. Hes good on the issues, he goes everywhere. Hes become something of a clone of Patrick Murphy.
Seeking an office in a bordering, suburban Philadelphia district, Trivedi appears to get Democrats more juiced because of his bio and his upset win over Doug Pike in the May primary. People seem to be really excited about Trivedi, one fundraiser said. On the other hand, Democrats who have dropped millions into the seat only to lose to Gerlach year after year are skeptical.
Perhaps more than any two candidates in the state, Lentz and Trivedi are more directly competing for the same resources. Both are on the DCCCs Red to Blue program that targets open seats and GOP incumbents.
When Trivedi won that primary, another fundraiser said. Lentzs chances for raising money in the suburbs got kind of cut in half. But the real smart guys in this game, they look at Bryan and say, hes my dark horse, hes my upset this year.
The two campaigns are hardly making that competition public, for obvious reasons. Lentz is a former Army Ranger and Trivedi a former Navy doctor, and both have had good things to say about the other.
We feel the same way weve felt all along, Lentz campaign manager Vincent Rongione said. Were running a strong race with fundraising. The chattering class might like to talk about this, but I dont think theres any evidence that were getting the short end of the stick.
Regardless of the internal party dynamics, Democrats have their work cut out for them.
Everybody got a big jolt after the primary, one Democratic fundraiser said. We dont want to lose anything weve gained.
"Hopeful that a fragile economic recovery will take hold in time, but worried their candidates will be blamed for an economy that went south on the last presidents watch."
Nonetheless, there's some interesting material in here. The part about Democrats contributing out of obligation and Republicans contributing out of enthusiasm is worth noting.
For those who are interest, we have all 10 of the PA competitive House races (candidates and election expert evaluations) listed at Key House Races Master List.
My congresscoward is doing all of his fundraising outside the district.
Just outta curiosity and because I’ve been outta the loop, PA got a budget yet? NYS still doesn’t.
The red bits of NYS and PA need to secede and form their own state.
Amen to THAT! I live in deep red Adams County and we're sick of Philly and Pittsburgh liberals taxing the hell out of us and then wasting the money on their inner city social programs.
I mentioned the idea to a county legislator once. I haven’t seen him since. Go figger :)
I'd even take Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, and Pittsburgh, if we can pawn off Philly and NYC and its suburbs.
thanks for the ping