Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Will Money Make a Difference

The Washington Post this morning spells out the biggest reason for Republicans to be optimistic about the race for control of the House: $$$$.

In 31 closely contested House races, Republican candidates have an advantage in cash-on-hand of more than 2-1. Anne Northup (R-KY) has three times the cash on hand of her Democratic opponent. Peter Roskam has 7 times as much as his opponent in the race for Henry Hyde's seat. Geoff Davis in Kentucky and Clay Shaw in Florida have advantages of about 4-1. Further, while the NRCC and the DCCC had roughly the same amount of cash on hand in the last filing (with a critical filing to be disclosed this week), the RNC had an advantage of about 4-1 on Howard Dean's DNC. (This is a topic I have written on almost ad nauseam).

So if campaign cash makes a difference, you can expect to see a whole bunch of close races tilt toward the GOP in the next few weeks. This is essential for the GOP, as even Ken Mehlman concedes that Democrats would win the House if the election were held today.

There is a critical question whose answer we may not know until election night, however: will cash make a difference this time? This might sound silly, but I bet that in 1994 no amount of money would have helped some Democrats win re-election. The wave was so big that some Democrats might have spent 4 or 5 times as much as they did and still lost. Will the GOP fall prey to the macrowave on election night, or will they be able to make headway in a range of districts where today they trail by a small margin, and still eke out a win?

I'll be watching polling indicators for the next few weeks, to see if there are signs of improvement. If we start to see analysts shift 'Toss-up' seats into the 'Lean GOP' column, it will definitely be a hopeful sign. Watch races like Chris Shays and Nancy Johnson in Connecticut, Clay Shaw in Florida, Geoff Davis in Kentucky, and Tom Reynolds in New York (which may also tell us how big the 'Foley Effect' will be). If many of those incumbents start to fight their way back to small leads, the GOP majorities definitely have a fighting chance.

I won't bet the house, but I think there's still reason to be optimistic.

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