[[C A M P A I G N S]] * Judging where America’s two political parties stand with the voting public is more than a bit challenging. Yes, you can look to polls, all of which now suggest deep dissatisfaction with George W. Bush and the direction he’s taking the United States, and some of which indicate that Democrats have a decided voter advantage over their GOP adversaries going into the 2006 midterm elections.
However, the best gauge of where a party stands may, unfortunately, be the amount of money it’s able to raise for future contests. And by that measure, Republicans are playing catch-up. As The Hill reports today, Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-North Carolina), head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRCC), “has begun meeting one on one with her GOP colleagues to persuade them to narrow the surprising fundraising gap between Senate Republicans and Democrats.” She wants Republican senators to “contribute much more” of their own money to the cause. “Through the first eight months of this year,” The Hill explains, “the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has raised $27.4 million--$2.4 million more than what the Senate Republicans collected over the same period.”
Part of this difference may be attributable to an increase in contributions from Democrats who see the GOP as vulnerable, and want to enhance their party’s ability to reduce disparities in representation on Capitol Hill and in statehouses. But The Hill points out that the DSCC’s rich coffers are also the result of “Democratic senators dipping into their personal campaign funds” for contributions: “They have given $2.6 million to the DSCC during the first half of 2005, according to campaign-committee officials. GOP lawmakers gave about $500,000, according to a review of fundraising records posted by PoliticalMoneyLine, a research organization.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), for instance, has filled the DSCC war chest with $500,000 from his campaign account, while other Dems have pitched in between $100,000 and $375,000. By comparison, the largest donation from a Republican to the NRCC came from first-term Florida Senator Mel Martinez, who gave $89,000.