Democrats Hold Cash Edge in Majority of Tossup House Races

(Bloomberg) -- Democratic candidates in the vast majority of competitive House races have more money to spend than their GOP counterparts in the final weeks of the campaign for control of Congress, bolstered by an energized base that’s unleashed a flood of donations.

In the 31 districts rated as tossups by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report -- all but two of them currently in Republican hands -- the Democratic candidates overall started October with $37.6 million in the bank, compared to $29.6 million for the Republicans, a Bloomberg tabulation of Federal Election Commission reports shows. On a race-by-race basis, the GOP candidates had an advantage in only about a quarter of the contests.

The two parties and their allies are furiously raising and spending money as the 2018 campaign for control of Congress enters its final weeks. Democrats are threatening to overturn the Republican majority in the House, while Republicans are positioned to hold on to control in the Senate. The election will determine whether President Donald Trump can continue to push his agenda, or be challenged by congressional investigations.

Having more money in a campaign bank account helps buy more advertising and get-out-the-vote work, but it doesn’t assure victory. In tight races, party committees and outside groups will often spend to make up the gap. Super political action committees, especially, are playing a major role and have spent tens of millions already on the closest House contests.

Read More: Trump Raises Millions for Re-Election Amid Midterm Battle

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan that is the largest-spending entity in the current two-year election cycle, received a $20 million infusion during the third quarter from billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. That brought the couple’s total CLF support to $50 million in 2018, almost exactly half of what the group has raised this year. CLF had $35.7 million in the bank at the start of October, after spending $51.5 million from Aug. 28 through Sept. 30.

Its Democratic counterpart, the House Majority PAC, reports its totals to the FEC on a monthly basis and will provide its latest numbers no later than Saturday. At the start of September, it had $32.3 million in the bank.

Historical Pattern

Republicans are trying to beat a historical pattern in which the party that holds the White House almost always loses seats in midterm elections. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to win the House, and since the end of World War II the president’s party has had an average net loss of 26 House seats in midterm elections.

To accomplish that this year, Democrats are seeking to oust Republican incumbents or take open seats previously held by the GOP from Maine to California.

The biggest cash disparity among the 31 districts rated as tossups by Cook was in California’s 25th district, along the state’s central coast. Republican Representative Steve Knight had just $419,889 in the bank at the start of October, while his Democratic challenger, Katie Hill, had $2.4 million. Democrat Hillary Clinton beat Trump by 6 percentage points in the district in 2016.

Hill, who has a background in policy on homelessness, raised $3.8 million during the quarter, while Knight took in just $455,819.

Some other Democrats running in California districts -- there are four others rated by Cook as tossups -- also recorded large fundraising advantages over their opponents during the quarter.

Tossup races with largest cash-on-hand differences

DistrictRepublicanDemocratDifferenceMore in bank
CA-25Rep. Steve KnightKatie Hill $1,940,415Democrat
NC-09Mark Harris Dan McCready $1,179,795Democrat
MN-01Jim Hagedorn Dan Feehan $1,172,457 Democrat
KS-02 Steve Watkins Paul Davis $1,111,187 Democrat
CA-48Rep. Dana Rohrabacher Harley Rouda $989,276 Democrat

Source: Federal Election Commission data compiled by Bloomberg

In California’s 10th district, Democrat Josh Harder took in $3.5 million, compared to $650,945 by Republican Representative Jeff Denham, who still held a cash-on-hand advantage of $413,251.

Democrat Gil Cisneros in California’s 39th district took in $4.5 million during the quarter, although $3.5 million was from loans he made to his campaign. Republican Young Kim raised $920,685.

Incumbents Behind

In Kentucky’s 6th district, former fighter pilot and Democrat Amy McGrath raised $3.7 million during the quarter for her Lexington-area tossup race against Republican Representative Andy Barr, who raised $1.2 million.

In Illinois’ 6th district, Democrat Sean Casten raised $2.7 million for his race in a suburban Chicago district that Clinton won by 7 percentage points that’s now rated as "lean Democratic" by Cook. Republican Representative Peter Roskam raised $1.4 million.

Among the 31 tossup races, the GOP has its biggest cash-on-hand advantage in Maine’s mostly rural 2nd District. Republican Representative Bruce Poliquin had $2.1 million in the bank at the start of October, compared to $637,790 for Democratic challenger Jared Golden, a state legislator and Marine Corps veteran.

Golden raised far more during the quarter than Poliquin -- $2.7 million to $637,194 -- but the incumbent had started the quarter with a balance of $2.7 million and that helped him maintain a cash-on-hand advantage.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.