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War Chests Bulging For Vulnerable Southern Dems

War Chests Bulging For Vulnerable Southern Dems

By Kyle Trygstad - April 29, 2010

Chairman Pete Sessions recently referred to the National Republican Congressional Committee's slew of candidates across the country as a "geographically balanced machine." It will need to be just that for the party to win back House control in the November midterm elections.

While the South has been a natural base for the party and a place many assume the GOP can pick up seats in a favorable year, several Southern Democratic incumbents in competitive districts currently boast overwhelming fundraising advantages over their GOP challengers. After the first fundraising quarter of 2010, at least eight Southern Democrats have more than 10 times as much cash on hand as their closest GOP challengers, and for some of them the margin is far greater.

This includes Reps. Mike Ross (AR-4), Jim Marshall (GA-8), Mike McIntyre (NC-7), Heath Shuler (NC-11), Rick Boucher (VA-9) and Nick Rahall (WV-3) -- whose districts were all won by John McCain in 2008. Others in districts Barack Obama carried with 55 percent or less are John Barrow (GA-12) and Bob Etheridge (NC-2).

They all have more than $800,000 in the bank, while none of their Republican opponents have as much as $100,000. McIntyre was actually outraised by $20,000 in the first quarter but still has an $800,000 cash-on-hand advantage.

Money isn't everything, and the enthusiasm gap is currently a detriment to Democrats nationwide. But even in the most favorable political environments challengers need cash to knock out incumbents. The financial disadvantage disclosed in the latest fundraising reports perhaps takes a few of these districts off the board of competitive races.

Of course, not all Democratic incumbents in the South enjoy such large leads in the money race, and Republicans have solid challengers in other potentially vulnerable districts. Some of the most vulnerable Democratic districts nationwide are open seat races in the South, where Democrats retired for various reasons -- some to run for higher office, some to avoid a difficult re-election bid.

But winning back the majority will require the GOP gaining many of its seats in states like Arizona, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania -- places Democrats were successful the last two election cycles.

The NRCC is confident it can do that and argues that the environment will overcome some of the fundraising disadvantages it will likely face in races across the country.

"Most Republican challengers are unlikely to outraise incumbent Democrats, but that doesn't mean they won't be in a strong position to compete in this political environment," said NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay. "For every dollar that Democrats raise, they will be forced to spend hundreds more defending their job-killing agenda that has led voters to abandon their party in droves."

Kyle Trygstad is a Washington correspondent for RealClearPolitics. Email him at: kyle@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @KyleTrygstad.

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