While there is an increasing anti-GOP sentiment at the national level, on the Congressional District level, the first quarter 2006 contributions and the disparities in fundraising between Democratic and Republican candidates for each House seat are sufficiently stark to make it easy to call most of these races.
There is a basic amount of money necessary to run the "air war" and the "ground war" of a political campaign. The Air War means the TV, radio, and web expenses. The Ground War means funding the office, staff, postage, phone, polls, doorhangers, mailings, billboard, and get out the vote expenses. If you don't have as much money as your opponent, your opponent will buy more TV, radio, web, billboard, doorhangers, and mailings than you. If nothing else, you'll be burned on name recognition, let alone caught short of the money to reply to attacks published in the last weeks of the campaign.
A candidate with stunning voter support and an excellent grassroots organization - volunteer phone bankers, neighborhood walkers, envelope stuffers, bloggers, house party hosts, etc. - can beat an unpopular candidate with more money, even if the well-heeled candidate has 4 times more money than the popular underdog. But that circumstance is increasingly rare in a geography as large as a Congressional District, and there is a basic amount of money necessary to compete. A candidate has to be able to buy television and radio time, billboards, mailings, etc. and keep the lights on. If a candidate cannot do that, and is outspent, then money talks.
In addition, if a candidate has raised a quarter of a million dollars more than all other candidates, that extra quarter million guarantees getting out message, buying up air time, paying for more phone banks, more polls, etc. A perfect example of what you can do with the money you've got the opponent hasn't - buy up billboard space and in the last month of the campaign plaster the District's roadsides with proclamations that your opponent is a flagburner in favor of abortion, gay marriage, and terrorists. This happened to Baron Hill in Indiana 09 in 2004 in his tight race against Mike Sodrel.
It is as my 86-year-old mother says: The Republicans have the money and the money talks. This is increasingly the case, as witness the research cited in this story by georgia10.
* In 2000, 85% of the Senate races were won by the candidate who spent the most money. For the House, the money-victory correlation was even higher, with candidates who outspent their opponents enjoying a 94% success rate.
* In 2002, about 95% of House races and 76% of Senate races were won by the candidate who spent the most money.
* In 2004, the same predictable pattern. In 95% of House races and 91% of Senate races, the candidate who had the most dollars won.
Besides the great weight and predictive value given to the money, three other factors count in a rational analysis:
* Voter registration in the District.
* Voter intimidation and voter suppression in the District
* Black box voting in the District.
The impacts of voter intimidation and voter suppression in specific Districts since 2000 (a historically shortsighted view by about 150 years) are well documented. It is much more difficult to quantify the impact of black box voting, but we can be sure that it will again come into play, especially where races are close.
The second quarter fundraising may add Democratic seats. What will happen this summer: gas prices will reach $3.38/gallon or higher. Increasing gas prices always militate against the party in office. The war in Iraq will continue to damage the GOP base. Continued revelations of misfeasance and outright lying will plague the Republicans. The economy will unwind while oil company profits soar. This means that congressional districts where there's a tight race and a substantial number of registered voters who have refused to identify with either Democrats or Republicans are the key districts, and these independents are the voters who will decide the way the District goes. Probably, in 2006, they'll vote Democratic.
Off-year elections typically show about 30% turnout, and this year the GOP conservative base will be hard to motivate except in competitive Districts where Rove, I suppose, has engineered hot button issues - Da Fence in southern Arizona, e.g., to keep Mezcans out. Da Fence will not play well with Hispanic voters, so the goal has to be voter suppression of Hispanic voters, not attracting them to the GOP. In South Dakota, the attempt to mobilize the GOP base is in the anti abortion bill, which has prompted the Pine Ridge President Cecilia Fire Thunder to announce plans to build a Planned Parenthood clinic on her property on the Pine Ridge reservation. Again, the attempt will have to be to suppress the Indian vote, as was so flagrantly done in 2004.
[A federal judge found that South Dakota GOP poll workers intimidated Indian voters in 2004, and the ACLU sued to enforce federal voting rights laws in the state in 2004. There were also cases of GOP attempts to declare Indian votes and voter registration fraudulent in South Dakota in 2002. Reported in SFGate.com;
People For The American Way; and The Washington Post.]
The seat the GOP could, based only on money, take from the Democrats is Illinois 08, Democratic incumbent Melissa Bean challenged by Republican David McSweeney.
The Districts I think the Democrats are likely to take from the GOP are Arizona 08, Indiana 03, Indiana 08, Indiana 09, New York 24, Texas 22, Wisconsin 08.
Here are the 9 that I say are too close to call:
Colorado 5 - Republican Douglas Lamborn and Democrat Jay Fawcett are less than $50,000 apart in first quarter take. But Fawcett has about $62,000 ending cash and Lamborn has about $144,000 ending cash. There are 7 GOP candidates for the heavily Republican District seat.
Colorado 7 - Republican Rick O'Donnell v. Democrat Edwin Perlmutter. They are about $240,000 apart in end of first quarter receipts, and about the same amount apart in cash on hand as of 3/31/2006.
Florida 08 - Republican incumbent Ric Keller and Democratic challenger Charlie Stuart are less than $300,000 apart. In 2004, 40 percent of district voters were registered Republicans, 36 were Democrat. That's 24% of the District's voters declining to register Republican or Democrat. That's a race.
Florida 22 - Incumbent Republican Clay Shaw v. Ron Klein - they are less than $100,000 apart in end of first quarter receipts and less than $500,000 apart in cash on hand as of 3/31/06. Kerry won this district 51% to 49% in 2004, and the District's over-60 voters have issues with prescription drug pricing, attempts to privatize Social Security, rising gas prices, higher homeowners' insurance, and GOP morals and ethics.
Illinois 08 - There are $300,000 between Democrat incumbent Melissa Bean and Republican challenger David McSweeney. It's a gerrymandered district composed of parts of Cook, Lake, and McHenry counties.
Iowa District 01 - The race is so far pretty close to dead even between Republican Bill Dix and Democrat Bruce Braley. There's $5,000 difference between what the PACs have contributed to each candidate. Jim Nussle, R, the incumbent, is vacating the seat to run for governor, leaving an open Republican-held seat in a just slightly Democratic district A large field of challengers from both parties has now come down to these two contenders, and the forecast of a race tighter than Dick's hatband is coming to pass.
Minnesota 06 - at present there are 2 Democratic hopefuls and 5 Republican hopefuls for this open seat. The primary is September 12. If the Democrats get down to 1 candidate and combine forces and money, this can be very competitive.
Ohio 01 - It will cost the Democratic party and its major funders about $350,000 to fund Democratic challenger John J. Cranley IV sufficiently to be even with Republican incumbent Steve Chabot.
The District went to Bush 51% to Kerry's 49%, but all Ohio 2004 vote counts are suspect.
During 2004 GOP voter intimidation of minorities was rampant in Cincinnati.
See also Voters Unite, Feminist.org, and Truthout.
According to the Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Brad Greenberg, Chabot has broad and deep support in the district. Greenberg believes the GOP can reach out to black and latino voters. Besides the presence of minority voter suppression in the District, Congressman Chabot voted to build a 700-mile-long wall between Mexico and the United States to keep illegal immigrants out. He also voted to make illegal immigrants felons. The bill he voted for made it a felony for charity workers to provide water to people crossing the desert. These positions are unlikely to win votes among Cincinnati's minorities.
How many voters registered in each party in the District?
There are 549,367 registered voters in Hamilton County as of 3/21/2006.
In November 2004, 78.9% of Hamilton County voters were registered as Democrat.
Charlie Cook says this District leans Republican. The question is why.
Pennsylvania 06 - Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach has about a $400,000 financial lead over Democratic challenger Lois Murphy; in first quarter receipts and less than $200,000 in ending cash in hand.
This is a gerrymandered district made of parts of Chester, Berks, and Montgomery counties, one of the new districts made by the state Republicans and litigated by Democrats. In November 2005, Chester County had Democrats: 88,700 (30.54%)and Republicans: 153,518 (52.85%). As of November 2004, 47.6% of registered voters in Montgomery County are Republicans, 37.9% are Democrats and 14.5% are other or unaffiliated. Berks County has slightly more Democrats than Republicans; but it has the key 30,000+ voters who will vote either party, and swing the election in the District. Pennsylvania 06 appears to be neither red nor blue.
Are there additional Districts that could gain enough money and votes to go Democratic?
Illinois 06 - It will cost the Democratic Party and its major donors more than $500,000 to get Major Tammy Duckworth equal in funds to the Republican candidate Peter Roskam.
Connecticut 02- it will cost the Democratic party and its major donors about $500,000 to get Democratic challenger Joseph Courtney competitive with Republican incumbent Rob Simmons.
Connecticut 04 - it will cost the Democratic party and its major donors at least half a million dollars to make Democratic candidate Diane Goss Farrell competitive with incumbent Republican Chris Shays.
California 45 could be an actual race, if the Democratic party and its major donors provide David Malcolm Roth with $245,000 to compete with and pull ahead of incumbent Mary Bono.
Iowa 02 has real possibility, as incumbent Republican Jim Leach is notorious for trivializing fundraising. At the moment, it will cost the Democratic party and its major donors about $150,000 to get Democratic challenger David Wayne Loebsack competitive and a little ahead of Leach.
That's 6 additional races.
Easy call - Nick Lampson will take what was Tom DeLay's seat.