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Nat'l: GOP Climbing Back?

Could the national landscape be getting better for Republicans? The party trails generic Congressional ballot matchups in three new surveys, but their deficit to Democrats is significantly smaller than it once was.

The polls, conducted by Financial Dynamics for The Hotline and Diageo; Gallup for USA Today; and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for Democracy Corps, show Republicans trailing by four to nine points among voters, a significantly smaller gap than polls earlier this summer that showed Republicans in as poor shape as they were just before the 2006 midterm elections.

The Diageo/Hotline survey polled 924 registered voters between 9/5-7 for a margin of error of +/- 3.2%.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Generic Dem.......42 / 82 / 7 / 21
Generic GOPer.....33 / 7 / 74 / 20

The USA Today/Gallup poll surveyed 1,022 adults between 9/5-7 for a margin of error of +/- 3.1%, with subsamples of 959 registered voters (+/- 3.2%) and 823 likely voters (+/- 3.4%).

General Election Matchup
(All / RVs / LVs)
Generic Dem.......48 / 48 / 45 (-5 among adults since last, 8/23)
Generic GOPer.....44 / 45 / 50 (+6)

The Democracy Corps poll was conducted 9/1-3 among 1,000 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem CDs / GOP CDs)
Generic Dem.......50 / 64 / 36
Generic GOPer.....45 / 31 / 57

Earlier this summer, Democrats held leads approaching 20%. But Republicans have long maintained that Congress' low approval rating -- sitting at just under 18% in the latest RCP Congressional Average -- would cost Democrats in November.

Many pollsters and pundits, including this writer, view Congressional approval ratings as a better reflection for the way voters see Washington as a whole, the reasoning being that few voters actually pay attention to what Congress is doing.

But National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Cole made a good point in an interview with The Scorecard this week in St. Paul, hinting that internal polling showed more voters than average know which party is in charge of Congress. That reflects poorly on Democrats, who have so far taken shelter behind an unpopular president, and it could cost them marginal seats in November.

Republicans still face a harsh electoral climate as they trail the generic ballot matchups. But perhaps it's not as bad as it was even earlier this summer.

NE: Terry +9

It was a sign of nervous Republicans when Rep. Lee Terry suggested he would win re-election because of "Obama-Terry voters." The Nebraska Republican leads a new poll conducted for his Democratic rival and posted first by Swing State Project, but he may have been right: In one of just two states that awards part of its electoral vote haul by Congressional District, Barack Obama is running just four points behind John McCain.

The poll, conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research for businessman Jim Esch, surveyed 600 likely voters between 7/27-8/2 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Terry and Esch were tested, along with Obama and McCain.

General Election Matchup
Terry......................47
Esch.......................38

Generic GOPer......42
Generic Dem..........37

McCain...................46
Obama....................42

At first glance, the numbers should worry Republicans; it's a close race two years after Esch finished about ten points behind Terry and four years after President Bush beat John Kerry by 22. But the Omaha-based district leans Republican, and the GOP is leading all three matchups. Terry is under the 50% mark, but he's still well ahead.

National Democrats have yet to name Esch to any of their top challengers programs, while Terry has already raised about as much as he did in the 2006 cycle. Terry doesn't have to pull a Gordon Smith and line up as close to Obama as he possibly can just yet.

FEC Second Quarter -- Illinois

Our final look at competitive House contests, until Kansas, Michigan and Missouri file later this week, focuses on Barack Obama's home state, where Republicans have gotten some good news. The GOP, which once could have lost as many as four seats, looks well-positioned to defend most of their incumbents, though one open seat is still giving the party heartburn:

Illinois 06: Freshman Republican Peter Roskam won a narrow two-point victory in 2006 over Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth in the race to replace retiring Rep. Henry Hyde. This year, even though he represents a Republican-leaning district, Roskam is taking no chances, having raised $408,000 in the Second Quarter and retaining $1.21 million in the bank. He will face the former deputy director of the state Homeland Security Department, Jill Morgenthaler, who raised $202,000 and still had $231,000 in the bank. The suburban Sixth District could swing Democratic eventually, but Roskam looks well-positioned this year.

Illinois 08: Perpetual Republican target Melissa Bean, who has survived a number of well-funded GOP challengers, is no fundraising slouch, having raised $421,000 in the last three months while keeping $1.55 million in the bank. Bean will face Republican businessman Steve Greenberg, who raised $232,000 and kept $105,000 in the bank. Greenberg has expressed willingness to self-fund, though Bean beat back a GOP rival who wrote his own checks and outspent the incumbent in 2006. After beating longtime Rep. Phil Crane in 2004 in a district that encompasses the northeast corner of the state, Bean is starting to look like a long-term survivor.

Illinois 10: Speaking of perpetual targets, Republican Mark Kirk, whose Tenth District boarders Bean's to the south towards the Chicago suburbs, won't have an easy race for a long time. The four-term Republican raised a whopping $890,000 in the last quarter and still has $2.85 million on hand, a huge amount of cash that will come in handy in the expensive Second City media market. 2006 opponent Dan Seals, who came within six points of winning, has raised more this year than he did two years ago, and with $643,000 raised in the last three months and $1.17 million on hand, he's done well for a challenger. But a challenger who trails by a 2.5-to-1 margin still faces a tough fight.

Illinois 11: A T-shaped district stretching from Joliet, a Chicago suburb, to Bloomington in the middle of the state, Rep. Jerry Weller's retirement has given Democrats a reason to hope for another takeover. State Senator Debbie Halvorson has raised an impressive amount of money, pulling in $366,000 through the end of June and keeping $917,000 on hand. But businessman Martin Ozinga, who replaced the winner of the GOP primary, raised a stunning $810,000 last quarter and still has $670,000 on hand. Republicans, who looked unlucky, got a break with Ozinga, who could develop as a good candidate.

Illinois 14: Freshman Democrat Bill Foster, who won his seat in early March, will face a tough race in November against his defeated Republican foe, Jim Oberweis. Foster raised $518,000 in the Second Quarter, with $443,000 on hand, while Oberweis raised $233,000 and kept $547,000 on hand. Both candidates spent a lot of their own money on the special election, which can probably be expected again by November. In an only slightly GOP-leaning seat with Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, Foster is the favorite to keep his job for another two years.

Illinois 18: Republican Ray LaHood's retirement from his Peoria-based district opens up a reliably GOP seat that Democrats may still try to play in. Former television reporter Colleen Callahan, the Democratic nominee, is getting some Netroots attention, and she raised $139,000 to keep $155,000 on hand. While Republicans aren't worried about losing the seat, it's worth pointing out that State Rep. Aaron Schock, their party's nominee, would be just 27 years old when he takes office. Schock raised $407,000 in the Second Quarter and has $299,000 left to spend. LaHood told Politics Nation that he expects Obama to win his district, but Schock remains the front-runner down ballot.

FEC Second Quarter -- Upper Midwest

Last quarter, we put Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri in the Northern Mississippi Valley, Wisconsin and Illinois in the Western Great Lakes and Michigan and Indiana in the Eastern Great Lakes.

After a competitive primary in Iowa, the state's Third District is likely not going to be competitive, while impending primaries in Missouri and Michigan have delayed FEC filings until later this week. So, we've lumped the three together to focus on top races in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Indiana, the Upper Midwest, and separated Illinois into its own category:

Minnesota 01: Mankato Democrat Tim Walz is popular in his district, and with $433,000 raised through the Second Quarter and $1.21 million in the bank, he's in as good a position as any freshman to keep his seat. An increasingly ugly Republican primary is only making matters better for Walz, as State Senator Dick Day continues an uphill battle against party-endorsed Mayo Clinic physician Brian Davis. Davis raised $292,000 in the Second Quarter and ended with $377,000 in the bank, while Day raised just $11,000 and still has $45,000 on hand. The two will square off on September 9.

Minnesota 03: Republican Jim Ramstad's retirement paved the way for a strong Democratic shot at the suburban Minneapolis seat. Attorney Ashwin Madia was the surprising Democratic convention winner, and he's raised an impressive amount afterwards, with $693,000 pulled in and $738,000 on hand. But State Rep. Erik Paulsen is one of the best Republican challengers in the country, and having avoided a costly primary or convention, he's got a big financial advantage. Paulsen raised $621,000 in the Second Quarter and maintained $1.12 million in the bank.

Minnesota 06: Few Republican freshmen are as endangered as Michele Bachmann, whose St. Cloud-based district is more socially conservative than Ramstad's neighboring Third District. Bachmann has proven a strong fundraiser, though, with $378,000 pulled in last quarter and with $1.29 million in the bank. Former Blaine Mayor and state transportation commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, a top Democratic recruit, has been slow to fundraise, pulling in $271,000 in the last three months and keeping $225,000 on hand. The DCCC has reserved $1.4 million in advertising time for Madia in Ramstad's seat, but there's a chance some of that money will target Bachmann as well.

Wisconsin 08: Paulsen isn't alone in the race for best Republican challenger. Most Hill Republicans will agree that former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker John Gard is near the top of that same list. Gard, running again for a Green Bay-based seat, raised $293,000 in the Second Quarter with $649,000 on hand. He lost in 2006 to Democrat Steve Kagen, who has invited some controversy in his first term, but still has a good amount of money; Kagen raised $289,000 last quarter and still has $927,000 on hand.

Indiana 02: Freshman Joe Donnelly has one of the more conservative voting records in the Democratic caucus, and his chances of keeping this northern Indiana district are mounting. Donnelly raised $248,000 in the Second Quarter and had $993,000 on hand, while his Republican challenger, businessman Luke Puckett, has yet to even file his report (A pre-primary report for Puckett showed he'd raised just $33,000 and given himself $150,000). Puckett is one of the GOP challengers headed to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and if he can make oil exploration an issue, he may stay competitive.

Indiana 09: For the fourth time in four elections, Republican Mike Sodrel will face Democrat Baron Hill in this Southeast Indiana district. Hill, the current incumbent, won in 2002 and 2006, while Sodrel served a single term in 2004. Hill raised $295,000 through the Second Quarter and had $1.16 million in the bank, while Sodrel had $193,000 raised in the past three months for a war chest of $379,000. Sodrel may contribute some of his own money to his effort, though, and John McCain is likely to win the district, where President Bush took a nineteen-point victory in 2004, giving Republicans an outside shot at taking back the seat.

FEC Second Quarter -- West Coast

Part ten of our comprehensive look at top House races hits the West Coast (plus Idaho), where each state except Hawaii boasts a competitive contest. To read our earlier take, click here, and follow along our Pacific Ocean swing:

California 04: Rep. John Doolittle's retirement set off a tough Republican primary to replace him. After a costly battle, State Senator Tom McClintock came out on top, putting him in prime position to keep the seat in GOP hands. McClintock raised almost $1.27 million in the Second Quarter and maintained $117,000 on hand after spending a significant amount of money to beat back self-funder Doug Ose. Democratic nominee Charlie Brown, who came close to beating Doolittle in 2006, raised $355,000 and still had $675,000 left over, though facing a rival untainted by the scandalous Doolittle means Brown is the significant underdog.

California 11: Freshman Democrat Jerry McNerney should be in serious trouble in a seat, just outside the Bay Area, that President Bush won by nine points. But McNerney has raised good money, pulling in $416,000 in the last three months and maintaining $1.37 million in the bank. His Republican rival, former Assemblyman Dean Andal, hasn't raised as much money as Washington Republicans hoped he would, finishing the quarter with $174,000 raised and $663,000 on hand. The seat is still competitive, but the freshman who knocked off Republican Richard Pombo in 2006 is in good position so far.

Oregon 05: It was supposed to be one of the best Republican pickup chances of the year, but the Salem-based Fifth District, where Democrat Darlene Hooley is retiring, is looking more like a Democratic hold these days. 2006 Republican nominee Mike Erickson, who has invested serious resources in his own race, raised $105,000 and still has $400,000 in the bank. He's been rocked by allegations that he paid for a former girlfriend's abortion, and though he won the GOP primary, the charges will hurt his chances. State Senator Kurt Schrader raised $355,000 and kept $231,000 in the bank after a surprisingly strong primary challenge from a former aide to Governor John Kitzhaber.

Washington 08: The Bellevue-based Eighth District is one of the most Democratic seats held by a Republican, but Rep. Dave Reichert is one of the GOP's best campaigners. Reichert won his 2006 race by two points, and he faces a rematch this year against a candidate who will be better funded than last time out. While Reichert pulled in $349,000 and kept $916,000 on hand, donors forked $578,000 over to rival Darcy Burner, who has $1.24 million on hand. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised eyebrows a few weeks ago when they did not include the Eighth in the first round of advertising reservations, but Democrats say they will play in the seat. Reichert's a tough candidate, and Burner, by all accounts, has improved since 2006. Few races are going to be more fascinating to watch.

Idaho 01: Freshman Rep. Bill Sali is not popular within his own party; his delegation partner, Rep. Mike Simpson, once reportedly threatened to throw him out a window. And thanks to a technical issue, Sali's fundraising numbers aren't available yet, though a campaign spokesman estimated he will report pulling in $155,000 since the primary and keeping about $250,000 on hand. Democratic businessman Walt Minnick raised $360,000 in the Second Quarter and has $444,000 on hand. Sali will benefit from a big GOP turnout, but Minnick has made a big effort to court Republicans dissatisfied with Sali's conservatism.

Alaska At-Large: Perhaps no incumbent is in more danger than Republican Don Young, but that doesn't mean the GOP is terribly worried about keeping the seat. Young, who has $461,000 on hand after raising $106,000 in the Second Quarter, faces a late August primary against Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, who had $208,000 on hand after bringing in an impressive $266,000 through June, and State Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, who raised $43,000 in the quarter and loaned herself enough to end with $289,000 on hand. The winner will likely face former House Democratic leader Ethan Berkowitz, who raised $227,000 and ended with $399,000 in the bank, though he faces his own primary with 2006 nominee Diane Benson, who raised $53,000 to end with $47,000 on hand. If ethically-troubled Young survives his primary, Democrats will have a good shot at the seat, though if Parnell scores the nomination, the Democratic winner becomes much more of a long shot.

FEC Second Quarter -- Desert West

After a bit of a breather this morning, we're back with part nine of our increasingly comprehensive look at the best House races in the country. Three months ago, we took a look at Arizona and Nevada and found a number of good races (Click here for our first look). That's the way it is this quarter, too, in the Desert West:

Arizona 01: National Democrats see former State Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick as one of their most promising prospects for a pickup, and she hasn't disappointed, raising $328,000 and keeping $668,000 on hand through the June 30 deadline. But she does have to get through a primary, where she will face television reporter Mary Kim Titla, who raised $54,000 and still has $57,000 in the bank, and Howard Shanker, who raised $33,000 and still has $21,000 lying around. The winner will face Republican nominee-in-waiting Sydney Hay, who raised $95,000 in the Second Quarter and kept $257,000 on hand.

Arizona 03: NRCC chairman Tom Cole once told Politics Nation that Rep. John Shadegg would be safe because he's a "paranoid incumbent." After a few quarters of strong fundraising from his Democratic opponent, Shadegg ramped up his own performance this quarter, pulling in a whopping $536,000 and keeping $1.35 million in reserve. Attorney Bob Lord had a good quarter, raising $233,000 and keeping $707,000 in hand, but unless national Democrats ride to the rescue, Shadegg looks like he will easily outspend Lord in the northern Phoenix district.

Arizona 05: A late Republican primary is good news for freshman Democrat Harry Mitchell, who is in enough trouble to merit defensive advertising reservations from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Mitchell raised $335,000 in the Second Quarter, keeping $1.37 million on hand to defend his Tempe- and Scottsdale-based district. In a five-way Republican primary, former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert leads the pack, with $163,000 raised through the last three months and with $521,000 on hand. Republicans Jim Ogsbury, who raised $50,000 and still has $323,000 in the bank, and Susan Bitter Smith, who pulled in $150,000 and retains $248,000 through the quarter, trail. Former State Rep. Laura Knaperek raised $34,000 betwen April and June and has $106,000 on hand, and State Rep. Mark Anderson brings up the rear with $29,000 raised and $69,000 on hand.

Arizona 08: State Senate President Tim Bee has given Republicans a roller coaster ride during his campaign. He was the hot prospect, then he was disappointing, and now he's hot enough again to merit special fundraising attention. Bee raised $390,000 in the Second Quarter and had $688,000 on hand after June 30, and, thanks to that special fundraising attention -- in the form of a visit from President Bush today -- he'll add an extra $500,000. But he's up against one of the best freshman Democratic fundraisers in the country in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who raised $562,000 between April and June and had a huge $2.07 million in the bank, putting hers near the top of all Democratic warchests. The battle for the Tucson-based seat is going to get seriously expensive.

Nevada 02: Freshman Republican Dean Heller had one of the closer races in 2006, pulling out a five-point win with just 50% of the vote. Heller raised $224,000 in the Second Quarter and kept $984,000 in reserve in anticipation of another tough fight with his 2006 opponent, former state Democratic chairwoman Jill Derby. Derby actually outraised Heller, pulling in $293,000, but trails significantly with $353,000 in the bank. In 2006, Heller only outspent Derby by a $1.67 million to $1.59 million margin, meaning Derby will likely have to step up her fundraising to make the race competitive in a district that takes up more than 95% of the state's land.

Nevada 03: Centered around Henderson and stretching to the southern tip of the state, Republican Rep. Jon Porter has seen his share of competitive races, and this year he will face another one from a candidate who's already won the district. After the likely Democratic nominee surprised observers by pulling out of the race, replacement Dina Titus, a state senator who came just a few points from winning the governor's mansion, jumped in the race and had an explosive Second Quarter, raising $575,000 and keeping $553,000 in the bank. Porter is no fundraising slouch, having raised $419,000 during the quarter and keeping $1.27 million around. Democrats think the Third District is their best shot at a Silver State pickup, so watch for serious party involvement here.

That rounds out this week's look at Second Quarter FEC reports. Check back Monday for the final four installments, when we round up the West, the upper Mississippi Valley, the Great Lakes and hot Senate races.

FEC Second Quarter -- Rocky Mountains

The Mountain West is the emerging battleground for both parties, especially as each taps more into voters' more libertarian sensibilities. And there is no shortage of races about which to get excited along the nation's highest mountain range. Click here for our First Quarter take on the hot races, and take a look at how those races are developing:

New Mexico 01: Both parties got the nominees they wanted in Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, the Republican, and former city councilmember Martin Heinrich, the Democrat running in this Albuquerque-based seat. White pulled in $459,000 in the Second Quarter, aided by a fundraiser with President Bush, and has $634,000 in the bank. After a more contentious primary, Heinrich, who outraised White with $576,000 pulled in, trails the Republican with $354,000 on hand. Democrats plan to spend money here to capture a seat that has eluded them in recent years, and Republicans could follow suit.

New Mexico 02: Two tough primaries produced nominees for November who will face off in a Republican-leaning open seat that both parties will make competitive. Restaurant entrepreneur Ed Tinsley, the Republican winner, raised $274,000 through the quarter and had $112,000 left over at the end of June, while former Lea County Commissioner Harry Teague, the Democratic nominee, raised $396,000 and still had $75,000 left over. Teauge starts at a geographical disadvantage; his base is in the extreme eastern part of the district, while Tinsley is from Las Cruces, the population center. But the DCCC has reserved advertising time here, too, making it a potential pickup.

Colorado 02: A heavily Democratic seat left open by Rep. Mark Udall, who is running for Senate, means Democratic candidates are fighting an expensive battle to replace him in Congress. State Senator Joan Fitz-Gerald is the prohibitive favorite, and she raised $422,000 through the Second Quarter, with almost $711,000 in the bank ahead of the state's August 12 primary. Businessman Jared Polis has poured millions into his own race, raising $3.18 million in the Second Quarter thanks to a $3.07 million donation from his own checkbook. He still has $866,000 on hand. And environmental activist Will Shafroth will complicate the picture; he raised $280,000 in the last three months and still has $735,000 on hand. The winner will face only token Republican opposition in the Fall.

Colorado 04: Like Jean Schmidt in Ohio, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's tenure in Congress has been filled with controversy and close calls. She won just 46% of the vote in 2006, the lowest percentage of any winner that year. This time around, she will face former Congressional aide Betsy Markey, who spent last quarter outraising the three-term incumbent. Musgrave pulled in $280,000 last quarter to retain $1.15 million on hand, while Markey raised $390,000 to keep $580,000 in the bank. Last year, a third-party candidate took 11%. This year, it's just a Markey-Musgrave head to head, which could spell trouble for the incumbent.

Colorado 05: The Second District is a Democratic free-for-all, and the Fifth is the same for Republicans. Freshman Doug Lamborn pulled in $116,000 to end the quarter with $237,000 left over, including $47,500 in debt, while two of his 2006 primary opponents nip at his heals. Former congressional aide Jeff Crank raised $102,000 and still has $105,000 to spend, while retired Air Force Major General Bentley Rayburn raised $61,000 and still has $62,000 in the bank. The district is home to Focus on the Family and the Air Force Academy, making the winner of the GOP primary the heavy favorite over retired Air Force officer Hal Bidlack, the likely Democratic nominee who finished the quarter with $77,000 on hand.

Wyoming At-Large: Rep. Barbara Cubin's decision to retire for medical reasons gave Republicans more optimism in their ability to keep a seat that came within 1,000 votes of flipping parties in 2006. Former State Treasurer Cynthia Lummis and rancher Mark Gordon are the leading Republican candidates; Lummis raised $199,000 in the Second Quarter and still has $247,000 in advance of the August 19 primary, while Gordon has largely self-funded his campaign, pulling in $416,000, almost $350,000 from his own pocket ($349,999 to be exact, a dollar shy of tripping the Millionaire's Amendment) with $69,000 left on hand. 2006 Democratic nominee Gary Trauner raised $318,000 between April and June and finished with a whopping $702,000 on hand. Democrats think they have a shot here, but that Wyoming is a very Republican state in a presidential year makes their job harder.

FEC Second Quarter -- Dust Bowl

Part seven in our exhaustive look at the best potential races of the year takes us west to the golden fields of Nebraska south to the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico. Check out our last post on the Dust Bowl here. We would include Kansas in this list, but thanks to an August primary, candidates there aren't required to file with the FEC until July 24. We'll update when that time comes.

The hot races we're watching from Texas north:

Texas 07: We weren't convinced this is a real race three months ago, and we still aren't convinced. But Republican Rep. John Culberson raised $394,000 in the second quarter and has $550,000 on hand, and that raises some alarm bells, given that his Democratic opponent, businessman Michael Skelly, has outpaced him by such a huge margin. Skelly raised $408,000 in the Second Quarter and has a whopping $1.05 million in the bank, making netroots Democrats pay attention. At the very least, Skelly will make life uncomfortable for Republicans in a district that gave a 28-point majority to President Bush.

Texas 10: Another heavily Republican district and another seat that might not really be in play, but Rep. Michael McCaul will face a minor celebrity in November in Larry Joe Doherty, host of the trial show "Texas Justice." McCaul raised $246,000 through June, keeping $489,000 on hand, while Doherty slightly outraised him with $247,000, keeping $260,000 on hand. That's enough to make us pay attention, especially when McCaul beat a Democrat by a 55%-40% margin in 2006. But the Republican remains the heavy favorite in a district John McCain will likely win easily in November.

Texas 22: Republicans have few better opportunities to reclaim a lost seat than in the suburban Houston Twenty Second District. Formerly Rep. Tom DeLay's seat, the GOP now has its eye on Democrat Nick Lampson, who barely beat a write-in candidate with a funny name. Lampson, who raised $261,000 over the last three months and has almost $1.15 million in the bank, will face a candidate hand-picked by Republicans in former Congressional aide Pete Olson. Olson outraised Lampson in the Second Quarter, with $354,000 pulled in, but after a contentious primary he's rebuilding his warchest and has just $261,000 on hand. The DCCC has reserved $1.1 million in advertising time to protect Lampson, but this year, against a good Republican candidate, that may not be enough.

Texas 23: Lampson isn't the only Democratic incumbent the party is worried about in Texas. Stretching from the El Paso suburbs to the San Antonio suburbs along the Rio Grande, Rep. Ciro Rodriguez beat a Republican in the Twenty Third District by just eight points in 2006. This quarter, he raised $332,000 and retained $1.19 million in the bank, while Republican Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson raised $262,000 and still had $280,000 in the bank. The DCCC has reserved ad time in the Twenty Third, as well, but they may not need to use it.

Nebraska 02: Yet another race where Democrats might not ordinarily have a chance makes our radar screen because of the possibility that Barack Obama could compete there. Incumbent Republican Lee Terry has made comments about his constituents' independent streak, calling them "Obama-Terry voters," and after his close 55%-45% win in 2006, he faces a repeat challenger in businessman Jim Esch. Terry raised $249,000 in the Second Quarter and still has $617,000 in the bank, while Esch, who faced a Democratic primary, raised $219,000 and has $141,000 in the bank. Terry got a boost when one of Esch's defeated Democratic rivals endorsed the Republican incumbent.

FEC Second Quarter -- Ohio Valley

No state disappointed Democrats more in 2006 than Ohio. But this year, the party again thinks the Ohio Valley will be a big part of their gains. Check out what we wrote last quarter by clicking here, and join us on a tour from the Great Lakes to the mountains of West Virginia:

Ohio 01: In Cincinnati, Ken Griffey Jr.'s tenure with the Reds isn't the only thing in jeopardy this year. Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, who won a surprisingly close 52%-48% victory in 2006, could find himself in serious trouble come November as well. Chabot raised $305,000 in the Second Quarter, leaving $1.31 million in the bank, while his Democratic opponent, State House Minority Whip Steve Driehaus, raised $200,000 and retained $631,000 in the bank. Democrats are committed to winning the seat, reserving $928,000 in advertising time, and that alone could make for another close contest.

Ohio 02: Perpetual target Republican Jean Schmidt has faced four close elections in the three years she's been in Congress. This year, though she represents a seat that is likely to go easily for John McCain, she could face another one. Schmidt pulled in $301,000 in the Second Quarter, leaving her with just $393,000 on hand. Her 2006 opponent, physician Victoria Wulsin, lost by just 2,600 votes then and slightly outraised Schmidt this quarter, pulling in $309,000 and keeping $378,000 in reserve.

Ohio 07: We're not convinced retiring Rep. David Hobson's seat, south of Columbus, is really in play, but one Democratic poll showed a tight contest between State Senator Steve Austria, the Republican, and attorney Sharen Neuhardt, so we'll include it out of an abundance of caution. Austria raised an impressive $342,000 in the Second Quarter, leaving him with $361,000 on hand, while Neuhardt raised $190,000 with $108,000 left over. Democrats face a seriously uphill climb, though, in a district that voted for President Bush by a fourteen-point margin.

Ohio 15: Republican Rep. Deborah Pryce's retirement after a narrow win in 2006 has made her challenger that year, Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy, the overwhelming favorite in many people's minds. But don't count out Republican State Senator Steve Stivers, perhaps the GOP's top recruit this year. Kilroy raised $365,000 in the last three months, leaving her with $1.16 million in the bank. But Stivers outraised his Democratic rival, pulling in $429,000 in the last quarter while saving $880,000 in reserve. The DCCC has reserved $1.2 million in advertising time, and Republicans will likely respond, as this is shaping up to be one of the closest races in the country.

Ohio 16: The state's third Republican retirement, from Rep. Ralph Regula, left open a seat south of Cleveland and Akron that Democrats are also enthusiastic about capturing. The DCCC has reserved $1.3 million in advertising time to aid State Senator John Boccieri, who raised $391,000 on his own last quarter and kept $531,000 on hand. Republicans are happy with State Senator Kirk Schuring, who pulled in $330,000 and still has $349,000 in the bank. A poll for Schuring's campaign showed him leading by six points.

West Virginia 02: The Mountaineer State's lone Republican finds herself a Democratic target this year, but Rep. Shelley Moore Capito is used to tough races. The four-term member of Congress raised $388,000 in the Second Quarter, while keeping more than $1.23 million on hand for her fight against Democrat Anne Barth, a former aide to Senator Robert Byrd. Barth raised $295,000 and still has $353,000 on hand, and as a Red to Blue member, Barth has national Democrats' attention. Still, Moore Capito has beaten well-funded challengers before, and she remains the favorite, for now.

FEC Second Quarter -- Florida

The Sunshine State, like Pennsylvania, just has too many competitive races to be lumped in with any other state. Republicans may have a big advantage in the state legislature, and Charlie Crist remains a very popular governor, but House races are a different story. Click here to take a look at what we wrote about the state after the First Quarter, and here's our take on quarter number two:

Florida 08: One of the biggest surprises of 2006 came when Republican Rep. Ric Keller fended off a surprisingly tough challenge from marketing executive Charlie Stuart by a narrow 53%-46% margin. This year Stuart is back, and both candidates are raking in big money in preparation for another tough fight. Keller raised $267,000 in the Second Quarter, leaving him with $935,000 in the bank, while Stuart raised $224,000 and still has $415,000 left over. He faces serious primary fights from a number of well-funded Democrats, but Stuart is favored to win the primary. Stuart is not a member of the DCCC's Red to Blue program, but if Florida heats up for Democrats, look for the DCCC to take another gander at this central Florida district.

Florida 13: After a race so close that a special House committee had to get involved, Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan will face a rematch with Democrat Christine Jennings, both of whom spent tons of personal money to make this the most expensive House race in the country in 2006. Buchanan raised a whopping $510,000 in the past three months to leave him with $1.57 million in the bank, while Jennings, a banker, pulled in $379,000, not a shabby showing at all. The Democrat still has $579,000 in reserve to fight for the district, which lies just south of Tampa.

Florida 16: Even after his departure in 2006, then-Rep. Mark Foley's name was still on the ballot, leading to one of the cleverest slogans of the year: "Punch Foley for [State Rep. Joe] Negron," the GOP replacement. Negron's not running against freshman Democrat Tim Mahoney this year, but a number of other Republicans are, making him one of the most endangered Democrats in Congress. Mahoney raised $335,000 and still has $1.17 million after the Second Quarter. Republican Hal Valeche pulled in $62,000 but still has $829,000 to play with, while Tom Rooney, one of the heirs to the owners of the Pittsburgh Steelers, raised $90,000 and has $451,000 in the bank. State Rep. Gayle Harrell raised $98,000 during the last three months and retains $240,000 for her race. The state's August 26 primary, relatively late on the calendar, could be the only thing that saves Mahoney.

Florida 18: The first of three Cuban-majority districts is probably the safest for its Republican incumbent. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen holds much of Miami and south to the Keys, and she's got $1.89 million in the bank after raising $281,000 for the quarter. Her Democratic opponent, businesswoman Annette Taddeo, is no fundraising slouch, having pulled in $154,000 and keeping $457,000 on hand, thanks to a sizable personal loan, but she'll need a bigger bankroll for the race she faces in November. A poll out two weeks ago showed Ros-Lehtinen with a huge lead.

Florida 21: Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart's Cuban-majority district, just west of Miami, could be in a bit more trouble. Diaz-Ballart raised $474,000 and had $1.75 million on hand through Second Quarter, but his rival, former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, bettered that, with $601,000 pulled in through the end of June. Martinez has $1.08 million in the bank, along with designation as a DCCC Red to Blue candidate, and the same early July poll that showed Ros-Lehtinen ahead by such a wide margin shows Diaz-Balart leading by a skimpy four points.

Florida 24: One race we forgot to include in the First Quarter features Rep. Tom Feeney, the former Speaker of the Florida House, who has been accused of a closer relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff than had previously been disclosed. Feeney hasn't been accused of wrongdoing, but his Daytona Beach-based seat might still be in play. Feeney's district gave President Bush a ten-point win in 2004, but the incumbent isn't taking his race lightly. He raised $421,000 in the Second Quartr and has $795,000 in the bank. He'll have to step up the pace, though. Not only did former Democratic State Rep. Suzanne Kosmas outraise him in the Second Quarter, pulling in $479,000, but she also has more in the bank than Feeney, with $936,000 on hand.

Florida 25: The other Diaz-Balart, Mario, finds himself in a similarly difficult position to that of his brother. Based farther west of Miami, Mario's Twenty-Fifth District stretches to the state's Gulf coast, and his opponent, Miami-Dade County Democratic Party chair Joe Garcia, is down just five points, per the poll of Hispanic-majority districts. Diaz-Balart raised $387,000 in the past quarter and retains $1.04 million on hand. Garcia outraised his opponent by more than $100,000, pulling in $493,000 and ending the quarter with $701,000 in the bank.

FEC Second Quarter -- The South

Our fourth installment of Federal Election Commission report summaries takes a look at the South, where Democrats are experiencing a resurgence after two special election victories earlier this year. For our last look, click here. We're not including Florida in this particular region -- like Pennsylvania, the Sunshine State gets its own section. But from North Carolina to Louisiana, there are plenty of other hot contests:

North Carolina 08: In 2006, Rep. Robin Hayes won re-election by just over 300 votes in a seat Democrats openly acknowledge they should have paid attention to earlier. This year, they're actively backing former teacher Larry Kissell, a member of the Red to Blue program, who last month put out a poll showing him ahead of Republican Hayes. Kissell needs to speed up the fundraising, though; through the last three months, he's pulled in just $178,000 with $232,000 on hand, while Hayes raised an impressive $470,000 and still has $1.17 million lying around. In 2006, Hayes outspent Kissell by a more than four-to-one margin, so he may need a similar boost this year to keep his job.

Georgia 08: In 2006, few Democrats came as close to losing their seats as did Rep. Jim Marshall, one of the most conservative Democrats in the House. Marshall's seat, which spans from the south Atlanta suburbs through Macon and near the Florida border, gave President Bush a twenty-two point margin in 2004, and this year Republicans are enthusiastic about retired Air Force General Rick Goddard's chances. Goddard raised $193,000 in the Second Quarter, keeping $489,000 in the bank, and almost matched Marshall's $201,000 raised. Still, Marshall has a big head start, with $1.37 million left over.

Alabama 02: When State Rep. Jay Love won the Republican runoff yesterday, he won the right to face a popular mayor who, despite the fact that the southern Montgomery-based district is a Republican seat, still decided to run as a Democrat. After a disappointing First Quarter, Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright is back on track, raising $346,000 in the second three months of the year and showing $281,000 cash on hand. Love, who emerged from an ugly primary, raised $270,000 in the last three months and spent most of it, retaining just $91,000 in the bank. But Love has shown the ability and willingness to self-fund -- he's already lent his campaign $650,000 -- and he could erase any disparity with Bright with one check from his own pocket.

Alabama 05: Another Republican-leaning seat, this northern Alabama district also picked their GOP nominee yesterday, pushing 2006 nominee Wayne Parker into a contest with Democratic State Senator Parker Griffith in the race to replace Democratic Rep. Bud Cramer. Griffith, who won his primary outright, pulled in $456,000 in the Second Quarter and still had $352,000 in reserve. Parker will need to replenish, and quickly; he had just $73,000 left after June 30, though that number likely plunged near zero after the close primary. John McCain will win the seat handily, but Democrats are favored to keep it in their column for now.

Mississippi 01: Just because Democrat Travis Childers won the district's special election in early June doesn't mean Republicans aren't going to keep trying to take back a seat President Bush won by 25 points. Childers, who raised $1.03 million in the last quarter leading up to the special election, still has $161,000 in the bank in the month after he took a seat in Congress. His erstwhile opponent, Southaven Mayor Greg Davis, raised $712,000 during the same period and kept $54,000 on hand. The two will likely face off again in November.

Louisiana 06: Another winner of a special election, Democrat Don Cazayoux, also had a good quarter leading up to his June 3 victory. Cazayoux raised almost $1.02 million and kept $271,000 on hand for what is likely to be an even more difficult race in November. He will face State Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican who has also had a good quarter, raising $213,000 and saving $195,000 for a rainy day. Cazayoux's flawed special election opponent, Woody Jenkins, will not be running again. Making matters worse, Cazayoux's defeated primary opponent, State Rep. Michael Jackson, is running as an independent. Jackson, who is African American, could give Cazayoux problems with the Democratic base; the district is 33% black. Jackson raised just $4,000 in the Second Quarter and had a negative cash balance, but if he can make a dent, it could hand the seat back to Republicans.

FEC Second Quarter -- Pennsylvania

We like to break down House races by region, but once again the nineteen districts in Pennsylvania present so many races that we'll stick to one state in our third look at competitive House races around the country. For a look back at the First Quarter races we spotlighted, click here. We've even added a few to our second round:

Pennsylvania 03: We spotlighted a Democratic poll yesterday that showed arboretum director Kathy Dahlkemper leading Republican Rep. Phil English by a single point in this northwestern district, but Dahlkemper badly trails in cash on hand. After raising $161,000 through the entire Second Quarter, which included the state's April 22 primary, Dahlkemper had $128,000 in the bank. During the same three months, English pulled in $422,000 and held $787,000 in reserve. A smart politician, English will be a tough Republican for Democrats to knock off, but in a working-class area hit hard by slow economic times, it's not out of the question.

Pennsylvania 04: Jason Altmire remains one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the House after beating Republican Melissa Hart in this suburban Pittsburgh district. Altmire is raising huge money though, with $456,000 pulled in through the Second Quarter and with a warchest of $1.57 million. Hart, who is running for her old seat, raised just shy of $300,000 for the quarter, and has $625,000 in the bank. Altmire won last year even while being outspent more than two-to-one, and the DCCC has reserved just over $550,000 in advertising time on his behalf. Still, Hart is probably the best candidate Republicans could have gotten in a district that is likely to support John McCain for president, making it a good pickup chance for the GOP.

Pennsylvania 06: Jim Gerlach will never have an easy race for re-election, though this year he will have a Democratic opponent with less money than last year. Gerlach won by 3,000 votes against an opponent who outspent him in 2006, but this year his $762,000 in the bank after the Second Quarter far outpaces businessman Bob Roggio, who raised $180,000 in the last three months and kept $260,000 in the bank. Gerlach raised $343,000 for the same period. Perhaps, by September or October, Gerlach will be able to breathe easier than he has in years past.

Pennsylvania 07: One of two seats Democrats won in the Philadelphia suburbs, freshman Democrat Joe Sestak continues his prodigious fundraising pace. Sestak pulled in $436,000 during the Second Quarter and kept $2.59 million in reserve. His highly-touted opponent, veteran Craig Williams, raised $280,000 during the period with $360,000 left on hand. Williams is one of the challengers heading to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge this week, and if he can make energy an issue, he could dent Sestak's growing popularity in the district.

Pennsylvania 08: The only Iraq war veteran to serve in Congress, freshman Democrat Patrick Murphy raised a whopping $714,000 last quarter, ending the period with $2.24 million in the bank. His opponent, whose son died in the same war, is struggling to keep pace, but Republicans are high on the prospects of Tom Manion, who they say has a strong shot at knocking off the freshman Murphy. Manion raised $242,000 in the last quarter and retained $505,000 in the bank in his race for the Bucks County-based suburban Philadelphia district.

Pennsylvania 10: In 2006, Chris Carney ran against a scandal-tainted incumbent Republican in a heavily Republican district, winning by a six-point margin. This year, Carney faces an opponent who doesn't carry the same baggage, and who can largely self-fund his own contest. Carney recognizes the threat, and raised a solid $354,000 in a district that has cheap television rates; he's got $1.15 million left over. His opponent, businessman Chris Hackett, made it through a bruising primary and raised $367,000 this entire quarter, to keep $267,000 in the bank. Hackett has already loaned his campaign $740,000, and more could be coming.

Pennsylvania 11: Democratic incumbent Paul Kanjorski could be in serious trouble this year. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running their first television advertisements of the year on Kanjorski's behalf, and the twelve-term incumbent has raised $488,000 in the Second Quarter, nearly two-thirds of the money he spent during all of the 2006 cycle. With $2.17 million in the bank, Kanjorski will have plenty of money to take on Republican Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta, who raised $333,000 in the last three months and still has $322,000 left. Barletta is being outraised, but his prominence on immigration issues could make up for being outspent.

Pennsylvania 15: Second-term Rep. Charlie Dent, like Gerlach in the Sixth District, isn't going to face a lot of easy re-election campaigns. One of only a few Republicans who represent districts both John Kerry and Al Gore carried, surrounding Allentown, Dent could face another tough race this year against Democrat Sam Bennett, who served as Allentown Democratic Party chair and ran for Mayor in 2001 and 2005. Dent raised $231,000 in the Second Quarter and retained $687,000 in the bank. Bennett pulled in $227,000 and had $354,000 on hand at the end of the period.

FEC Second Quarter -- Mid-Atlantic

Part two of our new look at how top candidates around the country are doing takes us to New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, and as in the Northeast, we're taking a look at more races than we did last quarter. For a look back at what we wrote after the First Quarter, click here. Take a look at the races we're watching near Washington, D.C.:

New Jersey 03: After Republican Rep. Jim Saxton's retirement and a bruising Republican primary, businessman Chris Myers, who was a vice president at Lockeed Martin, had a difficult quarter, raising $242,000 in a district that depends on advertising in the expensive Philadelphia media market. Myers retained $155,000 in the bank, little more than one tenth of what Democratic State Senator John Adler has in reserve. Adler raised $738,000 in the Second Quarter and retained $1.46 million after the end of the quarter. The district voted for Al Gore by eleven points in 2000, but for President Bush by two points in 2004, making it a key swing seat that both parties will go all out to keep.

New Jersey 05: Another new addition to the list, but only for Democrats' interest in the race. Rabbi Dennis Shulman, the Democratic nominee, raised an impressive $234,000 in the Second Quarter, ending with $258,000 in the bank. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer attended a fundraiser for Shulman, signifying that Democrats might wade into the state's farthest north district. But incumbent Republican Scott Garrett looks to be in good position for now, having raised $293,000 and keeping $649,000 in reserve. The district leans Republican, and Garrett won his third term by eleven points after spending just over $1 million, indicating he's probably safe come November.

New Jersey 07: Four-term Rep. Michael Ferguson is stepping down from his marginally Republican seat at the end of the year, having won re-election by a tiny 3,000 vote margin over Assemblywoman Linda Stender in 2006. Stender is back, and she's got cash. The Democratic nominee raised $498,000 in the Second Quarter to finish with $1.2 million in the bank. Her Republican opponent, State Senator Leonard Lance, raised a disappointing $191,000 after a bruising primary, and held just $81,000 in reserve. If Republicans are going to have a shot at keeping the seat, Lance is going to have to step on the fundraising gas.

Maryland 01: State Senator Andy Harris did what no other Republican has been able to in the last decade when he knocked Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, one of the most liberal Republicans in the House, out of the GOP primary in February. Harris could face a tough Democratic challenger in state's attorney Frank Kratovil, but the Republican is well-funded and sitting in a district that gave Bush a 26-point win in 2004. Harris raised $432,000 in the last three months and has $609,000 in the bank, as compared with the $454,000 Kratovil has left over after raising $355,000.

Virginia 02: Incumbent Republican Thelma Drake is used to being challenged for her Norfolk- and Virginia Beach-based district, and this year is no different. During the Second Quarter, she built up her warchest to $682,000 cash on hand, after having raised $281,000 over the period. Her Democratic opponent, businessman Glenn Nye, has kept pace with $262,000 raised through the last three months and with $409,000 on hand. The DCCC is running radio ads targeting Drake, but the district's high military population could help her this year, especially with John McCain at the top of the ticket.

Virginia 05: Former Democrat Virgil Goode, who switched to the Republican Party in February 2002, could see a challenger from his old party emerge this year in his Southside district, which runs from Charlottesville to the North Carolina border. The DCCC is also targeting Goode with radio ads highlighting his support for some of President Bush's policies in an early attempt to soften his numbers. Goode pulled in $390,000 in the Second Quarter, which, because of Virginia's primary, covered separate periods of April 1 through May 21 and May 22 through June 30, and kept $834,000 on hand. Democrat Tom Perriello raised $277,000 during the post-primary period and $313,000 during entire quarter. He still has $519,000 on hand. In what Democrats are calling an "emerging" race, Goode is leading, but Perriello has a shot.

Virginia 10: Exurban Washington is changing, but it may not be changing fast enough for Democratic nominee Judy Feder. The former Clinton Administration official took 41% of the vote in 2006, and now has an impressive $812,000 in the bank after raising $316,000 through the entire Second Quarter. The incumbent, Republican Frank Wolf, scored 57% in 2006 despite rumors of his impending demise, and through the last three months he's pulled in $359,000 for a total of $849,000 on hand. President Bush won the district by eleven points in 2004, and while population shifts might put it in Democratic hands in the future, that future might still be a ways off.

Virginia 11: In one of Democrats' best pickup opportunities this year, the party got exactly the candidate they wanted in Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Gerry Connolly. In the post-primary reporting period, Connolly raised $283,000, and thanks to a tough primary with ex-Rep. Leslie Byrne, he held just $275,000 on hand. His Republican opponent, businessman Keith Fimian, raised $334,000 in the same period and kept $1.04 million in the bank, thanks in part to a $325,000 loan from the candidate. Democrats are determined to win the suburban Washington seat, and the party just reserved $1.3 million in ad buys there to aide Connolly. But Fimian is no slouch, and he's turned out to be a better fundraiser than most expected.

FEC Second Quarter -- The Northeast

It's that magical time of year when Federal Election Commission reports are due, offering a key window into who may be vulnerable, and which challengers are for real. We wanted to reverse our order from the First Quarter and start with Michigan and Indiana, but since Michigan's primaries are August 5, Second Quarter reports aren't due in the Wolverine State for another few days.

So it's back to the Northeast, where plenty of hot races are just getting started. To check out our early take on contests in New York, New Hampshire and Connecticut, click here. While we wish there were more contests, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont don't have much to offer this year. Without further ado, the Second Quarter reports:

-- New Hampshire 01: Republicans Jeb Bradley and John Stephen continue to fight it out in advance of the September primary for the right to take on freshman Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in November. But Shea-Porter, who has refused DCCC offers to make her a member of the Frontline program for endangered Democrats, isn't going to make it easy for either of them. She raised $260,000 in the Second Quarter and still has $749,000 in the bank. That's a lot more than the $99,000 Bradley raised or the $137,000 that Stephen has around, and their smaller warchests, of $475,000 and $257,000, will be further depleted once the primary is over. The latest poll out of the Granite State shows Shea-Porter leading Stephen but losing to Bradley, the foe she narrowly defeated in 2006.

-- New York 13: In the last three months, this race went from a contest between incumbent Rep. Vito Fossella and New York City Councilman Domenic Recchia to a battle between Democratic city councilmember Mike McMahon and 2006 nominee Steve Harrison, both Democrats, and no real Republican, after Fossella's arrest on drunken driving charges and subsequent retirement. McMahon raised an impressive $497,000 in the first few months since getting in the race, retaining $471,000, while Harrison raised $34,000 and has $63,000 left over. Democrats made a big ad reservation in the seat, but without a viable Republican challenger, they probably won't have to spend it.

-- New York 20: A new addition to the list, freshman Democratic Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand has become a stunningly prolific fundraiser -- she's raised more than $3.6 million this cycle after spending $2.6 million to oust Rep. John Sweeney in 2006 -- but her opponent, Republican official Sandy Treadwell, has money of his own and he isn't afraid to spend it. From April through the end of June, Treadwell had raised $111,000 and given himself $948,000. He ended the period with $1.27 million in the bank. That's a lot, but he'll need more to compete with Gillibrand, who has stockpiled $2.8 million through the same period.

-- New York 25: Republican Rep. Jim Walsh's retirement left 2006 Democratic nominee Dan Maffei, who came within 3,400 votes of beating Walsh, the prohibitive favorite in the Syracuse-based seat. And Maffei is already fundraising like an incumbent, raising $473,000 through the Second Quarter and retaining $961,000. His opponent, former Onondaga County Legislator Dale Sweetland, raised $134,000 and kept $107,000 in the bank. Maffei is already running television ads, making him the favorite to steal another seat for Democrats.

-- New York 26: Rep. Tom Reynolds disappointed fellow Republicans by deciding to step down after this year, but a late and divisive Democratic primary could help the GOP keep a seat. National Democrats favor Iraq war veteran Jon Powers, who raised $272,000 in the Second Quarter to add to his already impressive haul. He finished the period with $489,000 cash on hand. Attorney Alice Kryzan pulled in $69,000 and still has $247,000 in the bank, while 2004 and 2006 nominee Jack Davis, the plaintiff who just got the Millionaire's Amendment overturned, hasn't raised a dime since kicking off his campaign but loaned himself $35,000. Businessman Chris Lee has the Republican field to himself for now, and has raised $351,000 in his first quarter. Added to a $320,000 loan and Lee has $636,000 in the bank, a nice head start especially if Democrats are forced to deplete their warchests.

-- Connecticut 02: Another freshman Democrat, Rep. Joe Courtney, is still building an impressive cash advantage over a Republican once thought to be among the party's best recruits. Courtney raised $327,000 between April 1 and June 30, bringing his cash on hand total to $1.4 million. His opponent, retired Naval officer Sean Sullivan, turned in another disappointing quarter, with $89,000 raised and $155,000 cash on hand. Republicans who were once touting Sullivan as a top prospect are now mum on his potential in November.

-- Connecticut 04: Perpetually targeted Rep. Chris Shays is one of an increasingly small handful of Republicans who represents a district Al Gore and John Kerry both won against President Bush. He's survived the last four years by winning re-election with just 52%, in 2004, and 51%, in 2006. But he always raises big bucks, pulling in $717,000 in the Second Quarter and keeping just shy of $1.7 million on hand. His Democratic opponent, Greenwich Democratic Party chairman Jim Himes, raised a similar amount, $698,000, and still has $1.44 million in the bank. National Democrats just reserved nearly $700,000 in advertising for Himes, an amount House Republicans are unlikely to match, making this one a race to watch.

Leaders Make Midwest Swing

National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Cole has had a rough few months, his party having lost three straight special elections and lagging seriously behind in fundraising. But the Oklahoman is back on his proverbial horse, using the Fourth of July recess to hit the campaign trail on behalf of endangered Republican incumbents and promising challengers in the upper Midwest.

Cole was in Ohio yesterday, stumping in two suburban Columbus-based districts being left open by retiring Republicans. The NRCC chair stumped in the state's Seventh District, where State Senate Majority Whip Steve Austria is vying to replace Rep. David Hobson, and in the neighboring Fifteenth, where State Senator Steve Stivers wants to succeed Rep. Deborah Pryce.

Austria is considered the favorite in the race, while Stivers has a much steeper hill to climb. His Democratic foe, Franklin County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy, came just more than 1,000 votes from beating Pryce in 2006, and Kilroy is raising good money again this year after hauling in $2.7 million last time around. Still, there are few candidates national Republicans are more excited about than Stivers, giving them reason to hope they can keep a seat that gave President Bush just a 2,200-vote majority in 2004.

Today, Cole is in Michigan to stump with endangered Rep. Tim Walberg in a district that encompasses Battle Creek and the Ann Arbor suburbs. Walberg's Seventh District is a top target for national Democrats, who have high hopes for State Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer (For more on the race, see Greg Bobrinskoy's write-up from last week).

Cole is headed to Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday, where he will help Rep. Michele Bachmann keep her St. Cloud-based Sixth District seat. Bachmann beat an underwhelming Democratic challenger by eight points in 2006, but this year she will likely face former state Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, about whom Democrats feel much better.

Too, Cole is headed to the state's First District, along the southern border with Iowa and anchored in Rochester, to campaign on behalf of Mayo Clinic physician Brian Davis. Davis is not the party's nominee just yet, but he beat State Senator Dick Day at the party convention last month, and Cole will stump for him in his bid to replace Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat. Walz won a surprising six-point victory in 2006 over Rep. Gil Gutknecht, and this year he's got a bank account that might scare off all but the richest contributors.

Republicans aren't the only ones hitting the trail this week. House Democratic Conference Chairman Rahm Emanuel, who engineered the party's takeover of Congress last cycle, is also stumping in Ohio, making stops in the First, Fifteenth and Sixteenth Districts there, all pickup opportunities for his party.

The Cincinnati-based First District will pit Republican incumbent Steve Chabot against State House Minority Whip Steve Driehaus in a district that re-elected Chabot by just four points in 2006. More than a quarter of the district's residents are black, meaning a big turnout in November for Barack Obama could help Driehaus come closer than 2006 candidate John Cranley did.

In the Fifteenth, Emanuel will stump for Kilroy just a day after Cole hit the district, bolstering Kilroy's case. Later, Emanuel will travel to the Canton-based Sixteenth, in the northern part of the state, to help out State Senator John Boccieri, who is running to replace retiring Republican Rep. Ralph Regula. Democrats have spent a lot of time bragging about Boccieri, who will face fellow State Senator Kirk Schuring in a district that gave President Bush 54% in 2006. In his final run for re-election, Regula won just 58% of the vote, his lowest total since 1972, against an opponent who did not spend enough money to qualify to file with the Federal Election Commission.

As Emanuel and Cole hit the trail, other House and Senate leaders will bounce around the country stumping for their candidates. Politics Nation will keep updates of who's on the trail and who's slacking off for the Fourth of July as the week goes on.

GOP, Dems Pull In Big Dough

President Bush may have an approval rating that dips perilously below 30%, but at least Washington Republicans can still find some use for him. The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee are holding a major fundraiser this evening that is expected to bring in $19 million to the two beleaguered campaign arms.

Chaired by Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, the dinner is expected to exceed its fundraising goals of $7 million for the NRCC and $12 million for the Senate, sources on both sides of the Hill said. Still, that doesn't mean all the money will come in tonight; a similar event featuring President Bush in March was said to have raised $8.6 million, though that money was spread between multiple FEC reports. Records show the party raised $7.1 million through March.

Democrats, who have outpaced their Republican rivals in fundraising success in both chambers, are also planning a new fundraising push for individual downballot candidates, Politico reports this morning, though the effort is not being run through either committee. Instead, a group of Hollywood women are planning a major fundraiser for September 27 that would directly benefit half a dozen key Senate candidates to the tune of at least $100,000 each.

Leaders of the group of organizers have signed agreements with Reps. Tom Allen, Tom Udall and Mark Udall, running for Senate seats in Maine, New Mexico and Colorado, respectively; Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, challenging Alaska Senator Ted Stevens; ex-Governor Jeanne Shaheen, running again in New Hampshire; and comedian Al Franken, in Minnesota.

More Dismal News For GOP

Republicans appear headed for another year of substantial House seat losses, if the latest survey by Democracy Corps/Greenberg Quinlan Rosner stands true. In the congressional districts that DC/GQR determined to be the 45 most competitive [pdf] Republican-controlled districts, Democratic challengers lead 50 percent to 43 percent overall.

In a similar survey taken in the same districts four months ago (other than five "hard-to-reach" districts that were added for this survey), Democrats trailed by 1 point. The current 7-point lead shows a landscape sliding in Democrats' favor.

DC/GQR polled 1,600 registered voters in 45 districts from May 19-26. Bush won these 45 districts by 12 points in 2004, and Republicans won the House races by the same margin in 2006.

Prior to polling, DC/GQR separated the 45 districts into two tiers, based on the district's likelihood to flip to Democrats. In the top tier, consisting largely of open seats, the margin for Democrats widens to 9 points, with a 51 percent to 42 percent lead. In second tier races, considered more difficult for Democrats to win, the GOP still trails by 3 points, 48 percent to 45 percent.

The poll also broke the districts down by geography, with Democrats performing best in suburban districts, leading 55 percent to 40 percent. Republicans perform best in rural/small town districts, leading 51 percent to 43 percent.

One problem for Republican candidates and incumbents appears to be voters' feelings about Pres. Bush, whose job approval rating in these GOP districts is at 33 percent.

"You have to keep reminding yourself that you're looking at Republican districts; this is not a national poll," said GQR pollster Stan Greenberg. "The fact that Bush's approval rating is only 33 percent in these districts gives you a sense what these Republican incumbents and Republicans running across the country are likely to face."

Job approval for Republican incumbents, who the pollsters referred to by name based on what district they were polling, was at 38 percent. On specific issues, Democrats faired 17 points better than Republicans on handling the economy and 11 points better on the war in Iraq. On handling illegal immigration, Republicans led by 3 points.

When asked for whom they would vote for president in November, Barack Obama and John McCain tied, with both receiving 47 percent.

--Kyle Trygstad

DCCC Targets GOP Over War Vote

Flexing their financial muscle, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching a new round of radio and web advertisements slamming eight Republicans for voting "present" on the supplemental appropriations bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The DCCC is targeting two members of leadership, House Minority Leader John Boehner, of Ohio, and Conference Chairman Adam Putnam, of Florida, along with eight members they see as vulnerable. Those potentially vulnerable members include Reps. John Shadegg of Arizona, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Tom Feeney, of Florida, Randy Kuhl of New York, Thelma Drake of Virginia, Joe Knollenberg of Michigan, Illinois' Mark Kirk and Steve Chabot, of Ohio.

In a conference call with reporters, DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen slammed Republicans for what he called failing the troops. "The new Congress has been working hard on behalf of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as for veterans," Van Hollen said. "Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have said one thing and done nothing."

"I was shocked last week when I saw what happened in the House," said Jon Soltz, an Iraq war veteran and chairman of VoteVets.org. "To vote present, that's a complete sellout." Soltz said military members were not permitted to skip a decision or a mission, and that members of Congress should not be allowed to do so either.

Republicans voted "present" on the bill to protest the fact that Speaker Nancy Pelosi bypassed the appropriations committee and instead brought the bill straight to the floor, a complaint Van Hollen dismissed as a common tactic Republicans used "countless times" when they were in the majority. "These members essentially decided to take a walk," he said. The measure will head to the Senate after the Memorial Day recess.

Van Hollen refused to disclose how much the committee would spend on the ads, saying those decisions had yet to be made. In many cases, this is the second time the DCCC has targeted members for votes they have cast this year; earlier, Democrats targeted members over their votes on the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Updated: Boehner spokesman Michael Steel sends this comment: "This would be laughable if the issue weren't so serious. Democrats have repeatedly voted for defeat for our Armed Forces overseas, as they did again last week. Republicans have fought for the troops, and everyone knows that. These political attacks are beneath contempt and will be completely ineffective."

Dems Lead Generic By 18

A new poll conducted for CBS News and the New York Times shows that as Democrats rack up huge fundraising advantages, the public favors the party in congressional elections by margins as wide as before the landslide 2006 elections. The survey showed 50% of respondents favoring a generic Democratic candidate, while 32% said they preferred the Republican candidate.

That eighteen-point gap is the same as the last CBS/NYT poll taken before the 2006 elections, conducted in late October of that year. Democrats now lead the RCP Generic Ballot Average by 13 points, two points higher than the final pre-election average.

Republicans acknowledge the challenge that lies ahead of them, but the party is still staying optimistic. House GOP leader John Boehner laid out his read on the November contests for colleagues at a Republican caucus meeting Wednesday, in a presentation colleagues called hopeful, but realistic.

FEC Reports -- Eastern Great Lakes

Chapter eleven in our look at FEC reports from around the country takes us to one state where Democrats had a very good year in 2006 and one they hope to have a good year in 2008. Three Democrats stole GOP-held seats in Indiana, and this year two of the party's top targets are in neighboring Michigan. (We know Indiana only barely touches Lake Michigan, but just go with it, we're running out of names) The races that we're watching:

Michigan 07: Three different members of Congress, all Republicans, have held the south-central district in the past three terms. After Rep. Nick Smith retired, moderate Republican Joe Schwarz beat a crowded field of conservatives and served one term starting in 2007, before the third-place finisher from 2006, Tim Walberg, came roaring back to beat Schwarz in a primary with significant help from the Club for Growth. Now, Democrats think Walberg is too conservative for the district, and State Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer is making a run to be the fourth member in four terms from the Battle Creek area. Schauer has outraised Walberg, pulling in $904,000 and keeping $751,000 on hand, while the incumbent raised $829,000 through March and still has $604,000 left over.

Michigan 09: Closer to Detroit, eight-term Republican Rep. Joe Knollenberg faced an unexpectedly tough challenge in 2006, giving Democrats the hint that the right candidate might knock him off in a district that gave President Bush just 51% of the vote in two consecutive elections. The party recruited former state lottery commissioner Gary Peters to take on Knollenberg in the district just north of Detroit, which includes Pontiac, and it turns out to have been a wise financial move. Peters raised $750,000 when the First Quarter tallies were finished, and ended the quarter with $644,000 in the bank. Knollenberg will be better financed than his colleague Walberg, though; after March, he had $1.33 million cash on hand after raising $1.85 million so far, more than he spent during the entire 2004 campaign.

Indiana 02: Joe Donnelly, the candidate thought to have the longest shot to knock off an incumbent of any of the three Indiana Democratic challengers in 2006, still pulled out a win that year, beating Republican Rep. Chris Chocola. Donnelly will defend his seat, based along the state's northern border with Michigan and including South Bend south to Kokomo, from businessman Luke Puckett, who just recently jumped in the race. Because Indiana's primary is coming up on May 13, candidates don't have to file until tonight at midnight. We'll update the numbers when they're available, but through the end of December Donnelly raised $1.1 million and has kept $713,000 in the bank.

Indiana 07: Based in Indianapolis, the Seventh District came open late last year with the passing of Rep. Julia Carson, and last month Carson's grandson Andre kept the seat in Democratic hands. But Carson could face a hurdle in the May 13 primary, when he faces a well-funded challenger who has been climbing in recent polls. Democrat Woody Myers, the former state health commissioner, has raised and spent $705,000 through March 31, including $550,000 of his own money, virtually even with Carson's $740,000 raised. Carson still had $93,000 in the bank as of the first day in April, and he's likely increased that number since coming to Washington. Republicans were attracted to State Rep. Jon Elrod as a candidate, but Elrod only raised $192,000 for the special election, leaving some in the GOP disappointed.

Indiana 09: In baseball, the third game of a three-game split series is called the rubber match. In Indiana's Ninth District, Democratic Rep. Baron Hill will face trucking executive Mike Sodrel a fourth consecutive time, and we're not sure what that's called. Hill has won twice, in 2002 and 2006, while Sodrel took the seat in 2004. Hill had raised $1.13 million through the end of the year and kept $862,000 on hand, while Sodrel has yet to file his paperwork. When these two candidates report tonight, we'll be sure to update the figures in what is going to be another of the great races of 2008. There is little love lost between the old foes, and the race promises to be bitter and expensive.

FEC Reports -- Western Great Lakes

Getting close to the end of our exhaustive look at the hot House races, and we're swinging back to the Great Lakes region, where hot races in Wisconsin and Illinois are going to hold our attention through November. The races to learn and love:

Wisconsin 08: In conversations with Republican strategists, most say that former Wisconsin Assembly Speaker John Gard is the candidate who most should have won his race in 2006. Instead, Gard lost to Democrat Steve Kagen. Kagen had a tough first year, but he's raised an impressive amount of money so far. Kagen pulled in $1.07 million through the first quarter and retained $760,000 million for his battle in November. Kagen still owes himself $469,000 from his last race. Gard, running again, raised $555,000 through March and still has $427,000 left. Gard will benefit from a heavy turnout for John McCain, but Kagen pulled out one surprise already and he might just do so again.

Illinois 08: Freshmen Democrats looking for a key to surviving their first re-election bid can take cues from Melissa Bean, who beat a long-time incumbent Phil Crane in 2004 and survived a wealthy self-funder in 2006. This year, she faces another wealthy businessman, Steve Greenberg. Greenberg has already given his own committee close to $100,000, and has raised $522,000, but after taking the whole month of March off, he's down to just $5,000 in the bank, and his campaign manager just quit. Bean has raised $2.22 million so far, and she still has $1.35 million on hand. Bean first won the district as President Bush carried it by twelve points, and with Barack Obama on the ballot this year, Republicans might have to wait two more years to give Bean another strong challenge.

Illinois 10: Republicans lost a huge number of suburban seats in 2006 despite the best efforts of Rep. Mark Kirk, who tried to warn his fellows of the danger they faced. Kirk himself beat a surprisingly strong Democrat by just six points that year, and this time around he will again face marketing executive Dan Seals in November. Kirk has already banked a whopping $2.95 million, through March, and he still has $2.25 million in the bank. Seals had a somewhat competitive primary, but of the $1.42 million he's raised through the First Quarter, he still has $745,000 on hand. Kirk is another paranoid incumbent, so he's not going to be taken by surprise, but this northern Chicago suburb could be in danger anyway.

Illinois 11: Republicans thought they had a good candidate to replace retiring Rep. Jerry Weller, until that candidate proved unable to raise money and was uninterested enough to simply drop out. Now, Republicans have fielded wealthy businessman Martin Ozinga, though he has yet to begin raising money. Ozinga will face State Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson, who has already raised $861,000 and still has $673,000 left in cash. Not only will Ozinga have catching up to do, but national Democrats have already hammered him for his business dealings. If Ozinga doesn't respond by defining himself soon, Democrats will remain strong favorites to pick up this seat based largely southwest of Chicago.

Illinois 14: Former Speaker Dennis Hastert was replaced by Democrat Bill Foster in a special election in early March, and a rematch in November will again pit Foster against Republican Jim Oberweis, a candidate many in his own party blamed for losing the seat. Both candidates spent more than $3 million in their bids, and both have a long way to go to rebuild their war chests. Foster had $262,000 in the bank after March, while Oberweis had $132,000 lying around. In three previous contests, Oberweis has had to largely self-fund, and if donors don't kick in contributions now, he will start writing his own checks again.

FEC Reports -- Northern Mississippi Valley

The northern Rocky Mountain and Plains states, stretching from Idaho to Montana and the Dakotas, won't offer much in the way of interesting House races this year as most incumbents are going to win easily. But circling back to the upper Mississippi Valley, both parties have opportunities in our twelfth installment of a look at interesting FEC reports:

-- Minnesota 01: After being kicked out of a rally for President Bush in 2004, Democrat Tim Walz decided to run for Congress and pulled off a surprise upset of GOP incumbent Gil Gutknecht. The district, which takes up the entire southern border of the state, voted narrowly for President Bush twice, but Walz has raised $1.6 million to keep his seat and retains just over $1 million in the bank. His main opponents have much smaller bank accounts after battling for the GOP nod; Republican activist Brian Davis, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester who won the party's nomination, has raised $222,000 and still has $50,000 in the bank, while State Senator Dick Day has raised $226,000 and retained just $72,000. They will face each other in the primary in September. The winner will face a steep climb against Walz in November, but the Republican National Convention could provide the victor a good opportunity to raise a lot of money.

-- Minnesota 03: Retiring Republican Jim Ramstad, who represents the northern, western and southern suburbs of Minneapolis, leaves a toss-up seat open to challenge this year. Democrats had recruited State Senator Terri Bonoff, but a convention victory for newcomer Ashwin Madia, a Democratic activist, and Bonoff's concession left Minnesota political watchers shocked. Madia has raised $362,000 through the end of march, more than $100,000 less than Bonoff, and retained $190,000 in the bank. He will face Republican State Rep. Erik Paulsen, who has a much bigger war chest of $688,000 after raising a total of $772,000. The district could be trending Democratic, but Paulsen is said to be a good candidate and his fundraising head start could be tough for Madia to overcome.

-- Minnesota 06: One of just thirteen Republican freshmen elected in 2006, Michelle Bachmann won an eight-point victory over children's advocate Patty Wetterling two years ago. Wetterling may not have been the best candidate against Bachmann, and this year Democrats are excited for their original first choice to take on the incumbent, former State Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, who raised $260,000 through March and has about $102,000 in the bank. Attorney Bob Olson is also running, and he raised $268,000 through the same period while keeping $112,000 on hand. Bachmann has pulled in $1.5 million so far and retains $1 million for later. Bachmann is a heavy favorite, but in a wave election she could face a touch race.

-- Iowa 03: One of the top-ranking Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee, Democrat Leonard Boswell has faced some tough re-election fights in his Des Moines-based district. This year, his challenge comes from the left, as one-time State Rep. Ed Fallon, who finished third in the gubernatorial primary in 2006, is making a bid arguing that Boswell is not liberal enough. Ahead of the June 3 primary, Boswell has pulled in $982,000 and kept $841,000 on hand, while Fallon has raised $171,000 and spent all but $19,700. Former Hill staffer Kim Schmett will be the Republican nominee, but he's raised virtually no money yet. Most likely, this race will be decided in the primary.

-- Missouri 06: Though Republican Sam Graves has had a generally easy time winning re-election, he hasn't faced very many well-financed challengers in his suburban and exurban Kansas City district. This year, that changes. While Graves has raised an impressive $1.57 million and still has $1.13 million in the bank, former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes finished the quarter with $1.4 million raised and $954,000 left over. President Bush won the seat by fifteen points in 2004, but national Democrats are excited at the prospect that Barnes presents. Graves' strong fundraising performance shows he's not taking the race for granted. National Democrats could spend a significant amount of money on the seat after finally convincing Barnes, whom they've been chasing for years, to make a bid.

-- Missouri 09: When Republican Kenny Hulshof decided to make a run for governor, strong candidates on both sides started scrambling to replace him in his northeast Missouri district. Four top candidates on each side are running for the seat, and at the moment State Reps. Bob Onder, a Republican, and Judith Baker, a Democrat, are leading the pack with $370,000 and $216,000 raised, respectively. Onder gave his campaign $250,000, and he retains $369,000 on hand, while Baker has $188,000 left over. Democrats are also excited about former State House Speaker Robert Gaw, who raised $110,000 and still has $102,000 left over. Republicans are also eying former State Tourism Director Blaine Luetkemeyer, State Rep. Danie Moore and former professional football player and Mizzou star Brock Olivo. None of the top Republicans have raised more than $100,000.

FEC Reports -- West Coast

We're on to the eleventh installment of our comprehensive look at the fun races in 2008, and throughout the districts in states that touch the Pacific Ocean -- 70 combined in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii -- just five look like they might be serious contests. A quick scan of the West Coast:

-- California 04: Buffeted by investigations into his association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Republican Rep. John Doolittle survived 2006 by just three points. Now that he's retiring, retired Air Force officer Charlie Brown, Doolittle's 2006 Democratic foe, faces a steeper climb against the winner of an increasingly nasty Republican primary. Brown has raised $952,000 and still has $590,000 in the bank, but he may need more than that to win a district President Bush carried by twenty-four points in 2004. He will face either former Rep. Doug Ose, who has $845,000 in the bank after raising $3.25 million -- including a $400,000 transfer from his old congressional account and more than $800,000 in loans to his own campaign -- or State Senator Tom McClintock, who has raised $315,000 and still has $125,000 left in the bank in advance of the state's June 3 primary. The bizarre irony: Ose lives in the neighboring district, and McClintock's house is in his State Senate district, 400 miles south.

-- California 11: Outside interest groups concerned with the environment played a key role in ousting Republican Rep. Richard Pombo in 2006, when Democrat Jerry McNerney beat the incumbent by six points. Republicans now see the seat, which includes Stockton and parts of San Joaquin, Alameda and Santa Clara Counties and a fraction of Contra Costa County outside of Oakland, as one of their best pickup opportunities, and former State Assemblyman Dean Andal as one of their best candidates in the country. Andal has raised $638,000 for his challenger bid, with $531,000 left on hand. McNerney raised $2.4 million for his 2006 race, and has already pulled in $1.64 million this year. He ended the quarter with $1.15 million in the bank, but McNerney could face an uphill battle in a district that is likely to back John McCain.

-- Oregon 05: South and west of Portland, Democrats are playing a rare game of defense in an open seat after Rep. Darlene Hooley's health problems forced her to retire. Businessman Mike Erickson, who narrowly lost to Hooley in 2006, is already up with television ads after raising $634,000 and retaining $332,000. Erickson will face former state Republican Party chair Kevin Mannix, a former GOP gubernatorial nominee, in the state's May 20 primary. Mannix kicked off his campaign last month and has raised $109,000 with $66,000 in the bank. Democrats have recruited State Senator Kurt Schrader, who raised just $56,000 in the little more than a month he's been in the race, but he kept all but $34 of that money. He will face Steve Marks, who served as chief of staff to former Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber, in the primary; Marks has raised $26,000 and has $18,000 in the bank.

-- Washington 08: Republican Rep. Dave Reichert is running for his third term, and he's never had an easy contest. This year could be even more difficult, as Reichert will face Democrat Darcy Burner for a second time. In 2006, Reichert won by just 7,000 votes as the two candidates spent virtually identical amounts. This year, Burner is actually outraising Reichert, with $1.396 million raised and $921,000 left over. Reichert has raised $1.37 million and is keeping $698,000 in reserve. Netroots activists are helping Burner, a leader of a move by some Democratic challengers to focus most on the war in Iraq, but Reichert remains popular for his service as King County Sheriff. The second meeting of these two strong candidates will be one of the closest races in the country.

-- Alaska At-Large: Alaska Republican Don Young, who has represented his state in Washington for 17 terms, faces two tough contests this year as he finds himself involved in an investigation over an oil services company that has already seen several members of the state legislature head to jail. Young has raised $834,000 so far this cycle and has $604,000 in the bank, but he's spent nearly $2.1 million in the past fifteen months, much of it on attorneys' fees. In the primary, Young will face Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, who announced in late March he will run and has raised $26,000 and spent about $225 so far. Democrats will throw former State House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz at the winner of the primary; Berkowitz has raised $401,000 since jumping in the race and retains $287,000. If Young survives the primary, watch for Democrats to spend heavily on the state.

FEC Reports -- Desert West

Part ten in our series of House races we're likely to be watching six months from now heads to John McCain's backyard, where Republicans are thrilled to have some help at the top of the ticket. McCain's coattails, should they extend far enough, could help his party take back the two seats they lost in Arizona in 2006, but strong Democratic candidates aren't going to let it happen that easily. The races to watch in Arizona and Nevada:

-- Arizona 01: Thirty-five felony counts is a great way to convince an incumbent to retire from office, and that's just what Republican Rep. Rick Renzi plans to do. Democrats recruited former State Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who has raised $660,000 and still has $465,000 in the bank, to try to win this district that sprawls from the Four Corners along the New Mexico border, on the eastern half of the state, and even includes some communities south of Phoenix. Kirkpatrick will have to get past activist Howard Shanker, who has raised $137,000 and maintains just $34,000 on hand, and former television anchor Mary Kim Titla, who pulled in $169,000 and kept $48,000 in reserve. Republicans have missed the opportunity to recruit nearly a dozen candidates, and at the moment trade association president Sydney Hay looks like the GOP's best shot. Hay raised $268,000 through March and still has $222,000 in the bank.

-- Arizona 03: After being petitioned by colleagues to seek another term, Republican Rep. John Shadegg has reconsidered an earlier decision not to run in 2008. He will face attorney Bob Lord, a Democrat who has raised an impressively large sum of money -- $832,000 through March, with $632,000 left over -- in a district encompassing many of Phoenix's northeast suburbs. Shadegg, who NRCC chair Tom Cole describes as a "paranoid incumbent," is taking nothing for granted and has already raised $1.24 million with $937,000 left in the bank. A poll taken for Shadegg that he referenced in his initial withdrawal statement showed him up by a hefty 30-some point margin, but the race could get pricey come the Fall.

-- Arizona 05: When he beat Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth in 2006, Democrat Harry Mitchell became the only freshman to chair a subcommittee in the 110th Congress. But despite his position on the Veterans Affairs Committee, Mitchell is going to face one of several strong challengers this year, and he knows it. Mitchell has already raised $1.36 million and retains $1.1 million. The front-running Republican, at the moment, is former Maricopa County Treasurer David Schweikert, who has raised $681,000 and still has $514,000 in the bank. Former lobbyist Jim Ogsbury is in second, with $427,000 raised and $353,000 on hand, while two state representatives seem to be underperforming; Laura Knapereck has raised just $100,000 and has $44,000 on hand, while Mark Anderson has raised $55,000 and retains $70,000. Both Ogsbury and Schweikert have given themselves $250,000 in seed money. The district, based in Tempe and Scottsdale, leans Republican, and should lean more so with McCain at the head of the ticket, but Mitchell is hugely popular and starts at a big advantage.

-- Arizona 08: After defeating a very conservative Republican to steal a GOP open seat in 2006, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has proven one of the most prolific fundraisers in the Democratic freshman class. She's raised $1.9 million so far this year, with $1.67 million left in the bank to help her preserve her hold on the Tucson-based seat. Republicans were excited to recruit State Senate President Tim Bee, but after a slow fundraising start some of that enthusiasm slowed. Bee came roaring back in the First Quarter and now has a substantial bank account, with $752,000 raised and $525,000 cash on hand. This race feels like a tipping-point election: If Giffords survives this year, she will likely be safe for most of her career. If it's a close race, watch the GOP continue to target the seat for years to come.

-- Nevada 02: Freshman Republican Dean Heller -- one of just 13 GOP freshmen elected in 2006 -- won a narrow victory in a district that covers virtually the entire state of Nevada outside of Las Vegas-based Clark County. He defeated Democrat Jill Derby by just five points in a seat President Bush carried by sixteen points in 2004, and this year the two will face each other again. While they spent about the same amount of money last time, this year Heller has raised $980,000 and still has $808,000 in the bank, though he carries a substantial $370,000 debt. Derby lags far behind, with $143,000 raised and $133,000 left over. Heller should be safe this year, but Derby could make this a race.

-- Nevada 03: Shaped like a giant Y and based in Henderson, the Third District is where a Democratic presidential candidate can win Nevada's electoral votes -- Al Gore won the district by 1,000 votes, while President Bush won it in 2004 by just 4,000 votes. Republican Rep. Jon Porter fended off a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid by 4,000 votes in 2006 after outspending her two-to-one, and this year Porter is facing another tough race. He will likely face Robert Daskas, the chief deputy district attorney in Clark County, who has raised $584,000 and still has $453,000 in the bank. Porter has raised $1.64 million this year and retains $1.03 million left to spend. Daskas will have to get past accountant Andrew Martin in the Democratic primary; though national Democrats clearly prefer Daskas, Martin has raised a not-insignificant $378,000 with $204,000 still in the bank.

FEC Reports -- Rocky Mountains

Democrats are hoping a seismic shift in the Mountain West will propel them to both bigger majorities after this year as well as control of the White House. To find the new electoral votes and the hot races, they need look first to the Rocky Mountains, as hot races from Wyoming through Colorado and into New Mexico offer promising opportunities. But the road won't be easy, given the quality of some Republican candidates.

In our eighth installment of the series, we take a look at six seats stretching from Yellowstone to Roswell, and virtually everywhere in between.

New Mexico 01: Republican Heather Wilson is universally considered to be one of the best campaigners in the country, and her departure to run for Senate, leaving a seat that gave both Al Gore and John Kerry narrow wins, initially stung the GOP. But one of the party's top recruits, Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, is said to be as talented as Wilson, and given that he has been elected by a large portion of the Albuquerque-based seat, he starts with better name recognition than any of his rivals. White has raised $446,000 and has $297,000 cash on hand. His likely opponent, Albuquerque City Councilman Martin Heinrich, has pulled in $666,000 so far and retains $342,000 in the bank. Heinrich will have to get past former state aging secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has raised $224,000 and still has $139,000 left. No matter which candidate faces White, they could face an uphill battle.

New Mexico 02: Wilson isn't the only Republican member of Congress running for Senate. Her colleague Steve Pearce is running as well, and his southern New Mexico district presents Democrats with an outside shot to pick up a seat as well. A large Republican field is fighting for the nomination, and restaurateur Ed Tinsley leads the way with $613,000 raised and $425,000 on hand, including a $200,000 loan to his own campaign. Retired banker Aubrey Dunn is not far behind, with $410,000 raised so far and $287,000 left over, though more than $300,000 of the total is his own money. Hobbs Mayor Monty Newman loaned himself $100,000 and has raised $295,000 with $206,000 left over. On the Democratic side, former Lea County Commissioner Harry Teague has $336,000 on hand after raising $579,000, more than $200,000 of it his own money, while Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley has pulled in $357,000 with $235,000 left over. Both nominees will likely be well-funded, and though President Bush won the seat by seventeen points in 2004, an increased Hispanic alliance with Democrats -- they make up 47% of the district's residents -- could spell a pickup opportunity.

Colorado 02: Another House seat opened by an incumbent running for the Senate, the race to replace Democratic Rep. Mark Udall will be all but decided in the Democratic primary. Three well-funded candidates are vying to win the nomination in the Boulder-based district to the north and west of Denver. Former State Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald has raised $1.13 million to date and has $574,000 laying around for later. Wealthy businessman Jared Polis has raised $1.64 million, more than $600,000 of it from his own wallet, and has $322,000 left over. And Will Shafroth, the director of the State Conservation Trust, has raised $1.03 million and has $682,000 cash on hand. All told, the August 12 primary could be the most expensive in the country this year. Both John Kerry and Al Gore won the district by wide margins, and no Republican has even filed for the seat yet.

Colorado 04: It is rare for a multi-term incumbent to have a smaller margin in every one of her races, but somehow Republican Marilyn Musgrave, who represents much of the eastern half of Colorado, has pulled it off. Musgrave won her initial election with 55%, then won re-election with 51% in 2004. In 2006, against another strong Democratic opponent, she won a third term with just 46% of the vote, three points more than her opponent. This year, Musgrave has raised an impressive $1.38 million and keeps just over $1 million on hand after March. Her Democratic opponent, Betsy Markey, a former aide to Senator Ken Salazar, has hauled in $594,000 and still has $376,000 left to spend. Though it is a solidly Republican district and the presidential race will help Musgrave, she still faces another tough fight.

Colorado 05: Like Udall's Second District, the Fifth, based around Colorado Springs south of Denver, will probably be decided in the primary, though this time it will be the Republican contest to watch. Rep. Doug Lamborn won a bitterly contested primary by just 900 votes in 2006, with just 27% of the vote. The second-place finisher, former Congressional aide and Chamber of Commerce official Jeff Crank, is running again and has raised $203,000 to unseat the incumbent. He retains $130,000 cash on hand. Lamborn isn't exactly knocking people's socks off, having raised just $340,000 through March and retaining only $179,000 in the bank. One hitch in Crank's plans will come from retired Air Force Major General Bentley Rayburn (the Air Force Academy is located inside the district), who finished third in the 2006 primary and wants another crack at the seat himself. Rayburn has raised $194,000 and still has $112,000 in the bank. The Democrat who has raised the most so far has managed just over $5,000.

Wyoming At-Large: It is a rare occurrence when a retirement means the incumbent party actually has a better chance of holding a seat, but that's what's happened in Wyoming, where seven-term Republican Barbara Cubin is stepping down. Plagued by health issues, Cubin also made waves when she threatened to slap an opponent in 2006 (The reason she didn't: He was in a wheel chair). She beat her Democratic rival, Gary Trauner, by just over 1,000 votes that year. This time, Trauner is running again, and he's raised an impressive $648,000 and kept $550,000 in the bank. He will likely face either State Treasurer Cynthia Loomis, who had pulled in $170,000 through March 31 and kept $140,000 on hand, or rancher and businessman Mark Gordon, who pulled in $412,000 and has only $86,000 left over. That amount includes nearly $300,000 from Gordon's own pocketbook. Heavy Republican turnout for John McCain should help the eventual Republican nominee, but Trauner could still steal the seat away.

FEC Reports -- Dust Bowl

Our seventh installment in a comprehensive look at House races we'll be paying attention to heads to an amalgamation of the New South, in Texas, the classic Dust Bowl of Oklahoma (Well, there aren't any good races in Oklahoma this year, but it's right in the middle) and a piece of the Great Plains, in Kansas, where Republicans might actually have reason to be optimistic. Our five races to watch, from the Rio Grande to the amber waves of grain:

Texas 07: Representing a district on the west side of Houston, Republican John Culberson is a likely bet for re-election. The district, which descends from the first seat George H.W. Bush represented in the House, voted heavily for his son, and Culberson has generally been re-elected by wide margins. But having outspend his opponent about six-to-one in 2006, Culberson won 59% of the vote, a surprisingly weak margin. Now, Culberson has raised $589,000 and has only $270,000 on hand, while his opponent, Democratic businessman Michael Skelly, has raised an impressive $853,000 and retains $666,000 in the bank. An early December poll conducted for Skelly showed him trailing by 19 points, and Culberson remains a strong favorite to keep his seat. But with so much money in the bank, Skelly could at least make life uncomfortable for the incumbent.

Texas 22: It may have been easy running against Rep. Tom DeLay, but Democrat Nick Lampson didn't get to do so. Instead, in 2006, Lampson ran against a write-in candidate with a difficult last name to spell and only won by ten points. Republicans got their favored candidate this year, former John Cornyn chief of staff Pete Olson, when he beat out that hard-to-spell candidate, Shelley Sekula Gibbs, in a runoff. Olson's treasury was drained to just $127,000 through the end of March (It's probably lower now, after the early April runoff) but he has plenty of time to raise more, and Olson has shown promise, already pulling in a total of $893,000, aided by $175,000 from his own pocket. Lampson will have the financial edge, though, having already banked about $1.35 million and with just over $1 million on hand. Still, Olson has one of the strongest shots of any Republican to pick up a Democratic-held seat.

Texas 23: One of the geographically biggest Congressional districts in the country, the Twenty Third District stretches from the El Paso suburbs along the Rio Grande and the U.S.-Mexican border. Democrat Ciro Rodriguez, a former member of Congress who once lost his seat, beat out Republican Henry Bonilla in a December runoff in 2006. Rodriguez has raised $1.6 million this cycle, part of which includes money spent on the runoff, and retained $932,000 through March. His leading opponent, Bexar County Commissioner Lyle Larson, raised $272,000 and spent much of it to end the quarter with just $60,000 in the bank. Larson will have to win in a 65% Hispanic district, but one that gave President Bush a 57%-43% majority in 2004. That's a tall order, but if Larson's fundraising picks up, Rodriguez could face a tough fight.

Kansas 02: Nancy Boyda provided one of the biggest surprises of the 2006 Democratic landslide when she unseated Rep. Jim Ryun, a well-known and well-funded Republican, by a 51%-47% margin. Despite her refusal to allow the DCCC to aid her fundraising efforts, Boyda has raised an impressive $992,000 and kept $811,000 in the bank. Ryun, not content to let his old seat go, is running again in the eastern district, which includes Manhattan and Topeka, and he's raised an even better $1.2 million so far, with $459,000 in the bank. Ryun has spent so much because he first has to get by State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins, a more moderate Republican who has raised $622,000 and kept $486,000 on hand. The winner of the August 5 Republican primary, though, will have an excellent shot against Boyda in a district that gave President Bush a 20-point margin in 2004 and is likely to do the same for John McCain.

Kansas 03: A perpetual GOP target, the Kansas City-based Third District is home to Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat who has survived tight battle after tight battle until 2006, when he won by a two-to-one margin. Moore will likely face State Senator Nick Jordan this year, a Republican who has raised $388,000 and still has $307,000 in the bank. He'll have to do better than that to oust Moore, who has hauled in $982,000 and kept $889,000 on hand. If Republicans somehow find themselves in better financial position down the road, be it this year or next cycle, Moore will once again be on the target list. But if he can duplicate his performance from 2006 over a much stronger challenger, Moore may be in a position to own the seat for life.

FEC Reports -- House Committees

Despite a dinner hosted by President Bush on behalf of the National Republican Congressional Committee, an event that pulled in $8.6 million in pledges and donations on a single night, Democrats still have an overwhelming advantage on their Republican counterparts, FEC reports due last night at midnight show. And given heavy spending by both parties on House races in Louisiana and Mississippi, that gap could grow larger this month.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $10.1 million in March, matching what they had raised in the previous two months combined. The committee is left with $44.3 million in the bank and no debt. Democrats look so powerful that even a political action committee dedicated to the juice company Ocean Spray made a contribution.

A little more than a month after taking a special election victory in Illinois, Democrats have now invested heavily in a number of special elections in 2008 alone. Democrats spent $1.05 million on the Illinois seat, which is now occupied by Rep. Bill Foster, and $311,000 on Indiana's Seventh District, now held by Rep. Andre Carson. Through Friday, the party had spent another $337,000 on Louisiana's Sixth District, where State Rep. Don Cazayoux is battling former state legislator Woody Jenkins, and $141,000 on Mississippi's First District, where local official Travis Childers is taking on Republican Southaven Mayor Greg Davis.

The National Republican Congressional Committee saw the gap between itself and Democrats grow this month, as despite commitments for $8.6 million at the presidential bash, the committee raised just $7.1 million in March and spent more than $5 million. A month after the party had to restate cash on hand totals after a scandal involving former treasurer Christopher Ward, the NRCC reported nearly $7.2 million in the bank with no debt.

The party is having to defend the same two special election seats Democrats are attacking, though, hindering Republicans' ability to build a nice November nest egg. Through Thursday, the NRCC had dropped $292,000 on Davis' Mississippi seat and $120,000 on behalf of Jenkins in Louisiana. In March, the committee spent $1.26 million in its unsuccessful effort to save former Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat in Illinois.

The situation is largely reversed when when it comes to the DCCC's and NRCC's building mates, their respective national parties. Howard Dean's Democratic National Committee raised almost $6 million in March, but they spent $5.4 million and ended March with just $5.3 million in the bank. That's up from $2.9 million cash on hand on January 1, a pace that isn't exactly on par with their Republican rivals.

Mike Duncan's Republican National Committee had a much better month, raising $15.3 million in March and spending $9.3 million to keep $31 million left over. At a meeting of the Republican National Committee earlier this month, Duncan formally informed John McCain's campaign manager that the money stood ready to help. McCain, perhaps returning the favor, will swing by Inez, Kentucky, a small town near Charleston and the West Virginia border that Duncan calls home.

FEC Reports -- Ohio Valley

For the sixth edition of our FEC roundup, it's off to the Ohio Valley, most of which are in the state of Ohio itself, as well as a lone race in West Virginia. Are Republicans looking at another region that could bear several losses?

Ohio 01: Republican Steve Chabot was forced to spend some $3 million in 2006 to defend his Cincinnati-based seat, which President Bush carried by just two points in 2004. In a tough year for Republicans, Chabot doubled Bush's margin to win his 7th term in office. This year Chabot will face another tough challenge, this time by highly-touted Democratic recruit, state Rep. Steve Driehaus. At the end of the 1st quarter, Chabot holds a 2-to-1 advantage in cash-on-hand, with $1.13 million in the bank. Driehaus has yet to spend much of the $700,000 he's raised so far. The DCCC has spent big here in previous attempts to oust Chabot, and that is likely to occur again with Driehaus a member of its Red-to-Blue program.

Ohio 02: In a district Bush carried with 64% in 2004, Republican Jean Schmidt won her first general election in 2006 by only 2,500 votes against Victoria Wulsin, after pulling out a five point victory in the GOP primary. Wulsin is challenging Schmidt again this year, and the Democrat has outraised, outspent and has more cash in the bank than the incumbent. Wulsin has pulled in $770,000, spent $600,000, and has $212,000 cash-on-hand. Schmidt, meanwhile, has raised $565,000, spent $400,000, and has $175,000 in the bank, but she's carrying more than $275,000 in debt. Schmidt spent big in the primary this year and still only won 57% of the vote. She outspent Wulsin 2-to-1 in 2006 and may need to do the same this year to hold on to her seat, despite the Republican tilt of the district.

Ohio 15: This open seat is up for grabs, as Republican Steve Stivers and Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy battle to replace retiring GOP Rep. Deborah Pryce. Kilroy came just 1,000 votes away from upsetting Pryce in 2006, despite being outspent by about $2 million. Likewise, Bush's eight-point victory over Al Gore in 2000 shrunk to just more than a 2,000-vote margin over John Kerry in 2004. Both candidates are in pretty good shape, financially, though because Kilroy has been in the race much longer, she has the upper hand in fundraising. Kilroy reported having $945,000 in the bank after raising $1.21 million. Stivers has raised $790,000 and has $600,000 in the bank. Both raised close to $300,000 between mid-February and the end of March.

Ohio 16: The long tenure of GOP Rep. Ralph Regula is coming to an end, and replacing him will be one of two state senators, Democrat John Boccieri or Republican Kirk Schuring. The edge should go to Schuring due to the Republican lean of the district, though Regula was held below 60% of the vote in 2006 for the first time since his initial election in 1972, and Governor Ted Strickland and Senator Sherrod Brown, both Democrats, carried Stark County by healthy margins. At the end of the 1st quarter, Boccieri has outraised Schuring by $200,000, though he's been in the race longer. Schuring's raised $490,000 and has $100,000 in the bank, while Boccieri has pulled in $690,000 with $250,000 in the bank.

West Virginia 02: In 2006, Republican Shelley Moore Capito matched her 2004 winning percentage, despite some tough questions she had to answer because of her seat on the congressional page board. She outspent her Democratic opponent by close to 4-to-1 that year, and this year she has so far outraised Sen. Robert Byrd's longtime aide, Anne Barth, by more than 3-to-1. Capito also has about three times as much cash on hand, with $925,000 to Barth's $305,000. While Byrd should help Barth's fundraising in the coming months, Capito's overall moderate record has helped her remain strong in the heavily Democratic Kanawha County, which she even won in 2006.

-- Kyle Trygstad

FEC Reports -- Florida

Part five in our series inspecting top House races we'll be watching come October and November. We head down to the Sunshine State, where Democrats feel great about their chances and Republicans are playing serious defense. But the GOP brand is in better shape in Florida than elsewhere, and Democrats have their work cut out for them. Onto our favorite hot and sunny contests:

Florida 08: Four-term Republican Ric Keller, who represents parts of Orlando and its suburbs, beat a tough Democratic challenger in his first election, in 2000, and another difficult challenger, consultant Charlie Stuart, by a narrow 53%-46% margin in 2006. Stuart, who was reasonably well-funded two years ago, is back and Democrats have Keller in their sights. Not the most prodigious of fundraisers, Keller raised $742,000 through March and kept $735,000 in reserve. Stuart has $316,000 in the bank after raising $415,000 so far this cycle. But his path to unseating Keller is not free of obstacles. In the August 26 primary, Stuart is going to have to get past attorney Mike Smith, who has raised $443,000 so far this year and still has $295,000 in the bank. Another attorney, Todd Long, has outspent both his fellow Democrats, having raised $192,000 and retaining just $17,000 in the bank.

Florida 13: In 2006, Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings, two wealthy businesspeople running in a Sarasota- and Bradenton-based district on the Gulf Coast of the panhandle, spent a combined $11 million on one House seat. Buchanan, who spent $8 million of that amount, won by a total of just under 400 votes, a margin so narrow that a House panel ended up investigating. This year, Jennings wants revenge; she raised $897,000 through the first quarter and retained $483,000 in the bank. Buchanan pulled in $2.34 million and held reserves of $1.12 million. Those seem like high burn-rates, but both candidates spent money on the court costs associated with the previous election. Either way, both candidates will be extraordinarily well-funded come November, and while Buchanan has an added advantage of incumbency, he will by no means have an easy time winning re-election.

Florida 16: The district that runs from the Atlantic Ocean across the middle of the panhandle likely cost Republicans more House seats last year than any other. Until felled by a scandal involving House pages, Republican Mark Foley held the seat. Now, Democrat Tim Mahoney is running for re-election with a war chest of just over $1 million, having already raised $2.13 million this cycle. He will face either retired businessman Hal Valeche, who serves on a local city council, or Tom Rooney, a recruit Republicans have been trying to score for various races for years. Valeche has raised $737,000 and put $250,000 of his own money into the race already, retaining $589,000 for later, while Rooney, whose parents own the Pittsburgh Steelers, has raised $691,000 and has $442,000 cash on hand.

Florida 18: The first of three heavily Cuban American districts in Southern Florida, Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has cruised to re-election in her nine full terms -- she didn't even face an opponent between 1994 and 2000. But there is a huge generational gap among Cuban Americans. Older voters tend to favor Republicans who talk tough about Fidel Castro, while younger voters lean more toward Democrats. This year, Democrats are excited about businesswoman Annette Taddeo, who has raised $321,000 so far this year and still has $300,000 in the bank. Ros-Lehtinen has a whopping $1.72 million cash on hand after raising $880,000 so far this cycle. While Democrats are excited about their chances in all three races, it's going to take a big upheaval to knock out Ros-Lehtinen.

Florida 21: Republican Lincoln Diaz-Balart's district, nearly 70% Hispanic, is just north of Ros-Lehtinen's and includes the suburb of Hialeah. In eight terms in Congress, Diaz-Balart has faced a total of two opponents, including one candidate who ran as a Libertarian in 2004 and as a Democrat in 2006. This year, Democrats have recruited Raul Martinez, a former mayor of Hialeah, and the party thinks they might have a shot at the incumbent. Diaz-Balart has raised $1.07 million so far this year and had $1.45 million left in the bank after March, FEC reports showed. Martinez isn't falling too far behind, though. So far, the former mayor has raised $616,000 and kept $592,000 in the bank.

Florida 25: The only one of the three Cuban American Republicans representing Florida not born in Havana, Mario Diaz-Balart, Lincoln's younger brother, could also face a tough battle in the Fall. Mario's district touches the western edge of both Lincoln's and Ros-Lehtinen's and includes much of the southern tip of the panhandle. Seeking his third term, Mario Diaz-Balart has amassed a war chest of $747,000 after raising $719,000 through the end of March. Miami-Dade County Democratic Party chairman Joe Garcia, running against the incumbent Republican, has pulled in $331,000 and still has $316,000 left over. A Democratic win in South Florida may not come this year, but it will likely happen soon, given the changing attitudes of a generation more friendly to the party.

FEC Reports -- The South

Day two, and part four, of our exhaustive look at some of the hot races we might be watching come October and November. In this installment, we'll take a look at Georgia, Alabama ...

Note that there are some great races we're going to be watching in North Carolina, but because of that state's pending primary, candidates there don't have to file until next week. We'll update those races when we get the numbers. And Florida, like Pennsylvania, has so many great races that we're saving a special update just for the Sunshine State.

Georgia 08: Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall, initially elected to replace now-Senator Saxby Chambliss in 2002, has won two of his three elections by barely more than a percentage point. Marshall's district, which stretches from the Atlanta suburbs south to just north of the Florida border, has a considerably Republican tilt, and that means Marshall will likely never be safe. So far this year, Marshall has pulled in $1.04 million and retained $1.19 million in the bank. He will likely face retired Air Force Major General Rick Goddard, who through March had raised $577,000 and kept $403,000 in the bank. Marshall and fellow Democrat John Barrow were two of Republicans' top targets in 2006, and that trend is going to continue throughout both men's Congressional career, though this year Barrow seems to have avoided a top challenger.

Alabama 02: Republican Rep. Terry Everett's retirement after eight terms in the House left several candidates scrambling for a seat that ordinarily votes heavily Republican. Democrats recruited Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright and released a poll showing him leading over prominent Republicans in the race, but fundraising records show Bright has catching up to do. In the month he's been running, Bright raised just $54,000 and has only $46,000 in the bank. Republicans Jay Love, a state Representative, and Harri Anne Smith, a state Senator, are seen as the GOP frontrunners; Love raised $434,000 after loaning himself $300,000, and he retains $276,000 in the bank. Smith pulled in $268,000 and kept $139,000 in the bank, as both candidates are running television ads. Dentist Craig Schmidtke raised $274,000 and spent all but $13,000 of it, and television executive David Woods raised $351,000 with $308,000 left over, after writing himself a $250,000 check. The race could be competitive, and watch for national Democrats to come in with guns blazing if Bright continues to lag in the fundraising department.

Alabama 05: North of Everett's district, Rep. Bud Cramer is one of just a few Democrats to announce his retirement from Congress after his party took control. Cramer, a Southern Democrat, could be difficult for the party to replace, but it helps a lot that Republicans have failed to recruit their own strong candidate. State Senator Parker Griffith is likely to be the Democratic standard-bearer; he raised $115,000 in his first few weeks in the race and retains $112,000 for future use. Attorney Ray McKee, who is also a former rocket scientist, is the only Republican raising any money in the seat, though he trails by a mile; through March, he had raised just $64,000 and kept $22,000 on hand.

Mississippi 01: When Senator Roger Wicker was elevated from the House following Trent Lott's retirement, few expected a competitive race to replace him. But recent polls have shown Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers, a Democrat, running close to Southaven Mayor Greg Davis, the district's Republican nominee, and the NRCC is spending heavily in the district. Through April 2, when the district's pre-runoff reports were due, both candidates had depleted their war chests. Childers had just $7,600 in the bank after spending the vast majority of the $283,000 he's raised, while Davis kept just $59,000 in the bank after dishing out most of the $636,000 he's raised so far. Post-runoff reports will tell us more, but it is likely that Democrat Childers is staying competitive even though he's being vastly outspent. That could spell big trouble for Republicans down the line.

Louisiana 06: Another special election will be held in just a few weeks to replace retired Rep. Richard Baker, whose Baton Rouge-based seat has been getting significant national attention already. Democrat Don Cazayoux, a state Representatitive, is locked in a tight contest with former state legislator Woody Jenkins, a conservative Republican. Through the middle of March, Cazayoux had raised $565,000 and kept $110,000 in the bank, while Jenkins had raised $291,000 and held just $18,000 in reserve. Both national parties are spending heavily in advance of the special election, and the candidate who wins is likely to be the favorite come November. Like in Mississippi, most of our information will come after May 3, when the winner is decided and new filings become public.

Boehner To Campaign In PA

This weekend, Pennsylvanians will have plenty of opportunities to see presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but they can also check out the top Republican in the House, as Minority Leader John Boehner takes a campaign swing through the state.

Boehner will join former Rep. Melissa Hart, who lost a close race to Democrat Jason Altmire in 2006, for a press conference this afternoon in Cranberry Township. Hart is looking to get her old job back in a district, encompassing many of Pittsburgh's northern suburbs, that voted for President Bush by narrow margins in both his contests, but Altmire has been one of the most prolific fundraisers among the House Democratic freshman class.

Later, Boehner will campaign for Republican Reps. Phil English and Tim Murphy, both of whom could face tight contests this year.

English represents the Third District, which encompasses Erie County and several smaller counties in the northwest corner of the state. He won election to his seventh term by twelve points in 2006, two years after beating the same challenger by twenty points. President Bush won relatively narrow six- and five-point victories in the district in his two races, and if the economy is a front-burner issue this year, Democrats might have a shot at upsetting English, whose district has been disproportionately hit by the economic slowdown that has plagued the Rust Belt. Four Democrats running in next week's primary have raised over $100,000 for their races.

Murphy's Eighteenth District surrounds Pittsburgh on the west, east and south, and gave Bush fewer votes than English's did. Murphy beat a business executive with 58% of the vote in 2006 after several better-known Democrats backed out of running. One of those potential challengers who backed out, former State Treasurer Barbara Hafer, is helping her daughter Beth, a businesswoman in the district, run this time, though she faces stiff competition from businessman Steve O'Donnell, who has outraised Hafer more than two to one.

Boehner's trip will be funded by his political action committee, The Freedom Project, which through February had $421,000 in the bank to help Republican candidates. In February, the group doled out $40,000 to candidates across the country, including a $5,000 contribution to John McCain's presidential campaign, and $5,000 each to failed Illinois Congressional candidate Jim Oberweis and that state's Republican Party. Through February, Boehner's PAC had spent about $208,000 on operating expenses and contributions.

FEC Reports -- Pennsylvania

Part three in our series (which may take a few days, given the amount of notable races to watch) of interesting House races to watch in key states this year, based mostly on First Quarter FEC reports. In this edition, we were going to tackle several states, but with five hot races in Pennsylvania, we decided the Keystone State would be enough for one post:

Pennsylvania 04: Freshman Democrat Jason Altmire won a surprising upset over Republican Melissa Hart in this suburban Pittsburgh district in 2006, taking 52% to Hart's 48% even though he was outspent two to one. Altmire's re-election bid may be difficult this year; his district is likely to favor John McCain over either of the Democratic candidates. But he's already surpassed his total from 2006, raising $1.61 million through April 2 -- the filing deadline is put off for two days because of the state's April 22 primary -- and keeping $1.3 million in the bank. Hart, seeking her old job back, has raised $529,000 and kept $393,000 on hand through the same period. At the moment, Altmire should be favored, but not by much.

Pennsylvania 06: Republican Jim Gerlach, who represents the Philadelphia exurbs and into the middle of the state, has won each of his three terms with no more than 51% of the vote. As long as he's a member of Congress, his life will not be easy come Election Day. Gerlach has raised $1.51 million so far, and is keeping $714,000 on hand after paying off a large campaign debt from last cycle. But in his previous three terms, Gerlach has faced a strong Democratic opponent who has spent as much, if not more, than he has. This year, Democrats have recruited Bob Roggio, a retired businessman who served as chair of his local party and is unlikely to be anywhere nearly as strong as 2004 and 2006 nominee Lois Murphy. Roggio has raised $205,000 and has $168,000 in the bank. Without a major infusion of funds for Roggio, Gerlach could finally get his big win. But if the race is still close even with an under-funded challenger, look for Democrats to come after Gerlach again, with guns blazing.

Pennsylvania 10: After being accused of choking his mistress, Republican Don Sherwood stood little chance of keeping his seat in 2006, and Democrat Chris Carney beat him handily. But in a heavily Republican district, Carney will face a challenge this year from either Chris Hackett or Dan Meuser, two business executives who are spending heavily in advance of the state's primary next week. Carney has raised $1.28 million through April 2 with $966,000 in the bank, and both Republicans are supplementing their fundraising by spending their own money. Hackett has raised $931,000, more than half of it from his own check book, and Meuser is up to $1.47 million raised, almost two-thirds of that his own. Hackett has only $174,000 left, while Meuser is slightly below $70,000 on hand. Expect the winner of the primary to reinvest in his own campaign and potentially trip the millionaire's amendment, allowing Carney to raise even more money.

Pennsylvania 11: Longtime Democratic incumbent Paul Kanjorski, who has served in Congress since 1984, is not used to facing spirited challengers. After his initial election, he's won every re-election bid since with more than two-thirds of the vote, save once, when he beat Scranton Mayor Lou Barletta in 2002 by a 56%-42% margin. This year, Barletta, an anti-immigration activist who has gained national attention from talking heads like Lou Dobbs and Sean Hannity, is running again, and Republicans think they have another real chance at knocking off the incumbent. Kanjorski is well aware of Republican plans and has raised just under $1.09 million for his bid, keeping $1.83 million on hand. Barletta lags far behind, with $184,000 raised and $154,000 on hand through April 2. But if anti-immigration activists play anywhere, it will be in the northeastern district, which also includes Wilkes-Barre, and they could make this race competitive.

Pennsylvania 15: Just north of Philadelphia, moderate Rep. Charlie Dent is eyeing his third term warily, given that he is just one of about a half-dozen Republicans to represent a district that voted for both Al Gore and John Kerry. Dent is planning for a tough race, having raised $969,000 through April 2 and retaining $615,000 for future spending. His Democratic challenger, Sam Bennett, has raised $313,000 and kept $182,000 in the bank. Those numbers aren't overly impressive, and Bennett might not be the best Democrats can do: He ran and lost races for mayor of Allentown in both 2001 and 2005. But the NRCC has included Bennett in releases targeting strong Democratic challengers before, signaling that they, too, must be nervous. If the DCCC runs out of places to spend money, they could come looking at Dent this year.

FEC Reports -- Mid-Atlantic

Part two in the increasingly massive series of House races to watch focuses on New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, where open seats could give Democrats some big gains. The races to watch over the next few months:

New Jersey 03: Republican Rep. Jim Saxton is retiring this year, opening up what is likely to be a closely contested race for the southern district that stretches from just north of Camden east to the seacoast. Democrats got their top recruit in State Senator John Adler, who has already raised $629,000 and has a war chest of $587,000 remaining. Jack Kelly, an Ocean County Freeholder, and Chris Myers, a Medford Township councilmember, are fighting for the Republican nod; Kelly has raised $306,000 and retains $281,000, while Myers pulled in $334,000 and kept $288,000 in the bank. George Bush won the district narrowly in 2004, though Al Gore won it by a wider margin in 2000, and Democrats clearly plan to make the seat a target.

New Jersey 07: While Saxton's retirement was not a complete surprise, Republican Mike Ferguson's decision to follow suit did come as a shock. Two potentially strong Republican candidates, Leonard Lance, the state Senate Majority Leader, and Kate Whitman, daughter of former Governor Christine Todd Whitman, are raising big bucks early; Lance has raised $294,000 with $255,000 still on hand, while Whitman has pulled in $444,000, keeping $307,000 left in the bank. The winner of the primary will face Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender, who came within 3,000 votes of beating Ferguson in 2006. Stender has raised $606,000 so far this year and has $502,000 remaining in the bank.

Maryland 01: Some of the biggest news of the cycle so far happened in Maryland earlier this year when Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest lost his battle for renomination in his district along the Chesapeake Bay to State Senator Andy Harris, a more conservative politician who had backing from the Club for Growth. Gilchrest will likely not endorse Harris, and though the district voted overwhelmingly for President Bush in both his races, some Democrats think Queen Anne County State's Attorney Frank Kratovil could be the right candidate at the right time. Kratovil has raised $431,000 and retains $214,000 in the bank, while Harris spent much of the $1.5 million he's already raised in the primary. Harris has $205,000 left over. It will probably take a very favorable year for Democrats, but Kratovil will have at least some money to take advantage should another pro-Democratic wave develop.

Virginia 10: After facing a spirited challenger in 2006, some Democrats think Republican Frank Wolf could be the next Virginia Republican to fall to an increasing Democratic wave. Wolf represents an exurban Washington district, and Georgetown University Professor Judy Feder held him to 57% of the vote in 2006. Though Feder didn't come as close as other Democratic near-misses, she clearly scared the incumbent, who is raising significant money as he prepares for a rematch in 2008. Wolf has raised $1.05 million so far this year and has $715,000 in reserve. Feder, a former Clinton Administration official, has $700,000 in the bank after raising $900,000, keeping relatively strong pace with the incumbent. Wolf's re-election bids are likely to get more difficult as more Democrats move into his district, but it will still take a big Democratic tsunami to unseat the 14-term incumbent.

Virginia 11: With the departure of Rep. Tom Davis, Republican chances to keep this suburban Washington seat took a serious hit. But Davis worked hard to clear the field for business executive Keith Fimian, who has raised an impressive $840,000 through March 31. Fimian will face either former Rep. Leslie Byrne, who lost to Davis in 1994, or Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Gerry Connolly. Byrne has raised $346,000 through March, while Connolly, who leads the primary by wide margins in polls taken for his campaign, raised more than $500,000 in the First Quarter and maintains $424,000 in the bank. Few areas in the country have changed as rapidly as Northern Virginia, and the Democratic nominee, who will be chosen in June, will likely have the leg up in November.

FEC Reports -- The Northeast

With 435 races to at least glance over, the day House candidates' reports are due to the Federal Election Commission provides political junkies everywhere with what seems like an endless stream of information to take in. That information would be truly endless if we didn't break it up in some way. So here's our first manageable bite, as we take a quick look at the House races in the Northeast that could prove appealing come September and October.

As always, don't forget that money isn't everything, but along with poll numbers, candidate interviews and other factors, it's one thing we'll consider when we debut our races to watch list later this summer. For now, races we're keeping an eye on:

New Hampshire 01: Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter wasn't even supposed to be in Congress this year after surprising national and Granite State Democrats by upsetting Democratic State House leader Jim Craig in the primary last year. But Shea-Porter surprised incumbent Republican Jeb Bradley, winning election in an extremely marginal district by just 5,000 votes after being outspent more than three-to-one. This year, Shea-Porter has already raised more than $662,000 and through the end of March retained $545,000 in the bank. Bradley, running for his old seat, is competitive, having raised $566,000 and keeping $516,000 in reserve. He will face former state Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen, who Bradley beat in his initial 2002 primary race, and who has raised $231,000 with $203,000 on hand, in the state's September primary.

New York 13: Republican Rep. Vito Fossella, the last Republican to represent any part of New York City, has won relatively easy re-election battles in recent years, but this time around he could find himself in trouble. Fossella has outraised his top Democratic challenger by a wide margin, but he's also spent a lot of that money. Through March, Fossella pulled in $851,000 and had only $248,000 in the bank. New York City Councilmember Domenic Recchia has raised $350,000 for his bid so far and retained $325,000 after March 31. Fossella spent more than $25,000 on polling with the very reputable Public Opinion Strategies this quarter, so if he starts hauling in a lot more money and getting aggressive, one could surmise that the poll held at least some bad news that scared the five-term incumbent.

New York 25: Longtime Republican Rep. Jim Walsh's departure from Congress could signal trouble for Republicans as they scramble to find a candidate to fill the seat. 2006 Democratic nominee Dan Maffei, a former Congressional staffer who came surprisingly close to beating Walsh that year, has already raised a whopping $853,000 for his bid in the Syracuse-based district, and retains $675,000 after March. Three serious Republican candidates -- Assemblyman Bob Oaks, Manilus Village Trustee Paul Serafin and former Onondaga County legislature chair Dale Sweetland -- are in the race, but none have filed with the FEC yet. If one of them doesn't raise big bucks, Maffei is going to pick up another seat for Democrats, a party that did very well in upstate New York.

New York 26: Another retirement that caught Republicans by surprise came when Rep. Tom Reynolds told constituents he would not stand for re-election after a tighter than expected contest in 2006 and a disappointing stint as NRCC chairman. The Democratic primary could be heavily contested, as Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul is considering a bid while two-time nominee Jack Davis and Iraq war veteran Jon Powers are already in the race. Powers has raised $598,000 through March, with $402,000 left in the bank, while Davis has yet to begin raising money -- in his bids against Reynolds in 2004 and 2006, Davis largely self-funded. Attorney Alice Kryzan rounds out the field with $287,000 raised and $206,000 left in the bank. On the Republican side, the only candidate so far could find himself in early hot water. Iraq war veteran David Bellavia most recently won notoriety when he referred to Barack Obama as Tiger Woods, which some saw as a racially-tinged slight, while introducing John McCain at a rally last week in Washington.

Connecticut 02: After narrowly defeating incumbent Republican Rob Simmons in one of the nation's closest contests, freshman Democrat Joe Courtney has made himself an expert at the fundraising game, pulling in $1.46 million through March. He retains $1.19 million in the bank, and he will likely face Sean Sullivan, who commanded a major naval facility in the eastern Connecticut-based district, which includes New London and Norwich. Sullivan was a highly-touted recruit who Republicans loved, and they saw an early chance to steal back a seat. But his fundraising has been lacking; he pulled in $230,000 through March and held just $129,000 cash on hand. If his fundraising picks up, Sullivan could be a very strong contender, but if not, Courtney will be a safe bet for re-election.

Connecticut 05: In 2006, the incumbent member of Congress in the district that stretches from the Hartford suburbs to the New York border in the west lost to a state Senator. This year, Rep. Chris Murphy, who outpaced Republican Nancy Johnson two years ago, faces another state Senator, David Cappiello, who could give the freshman a run for his money. But Murphy, who is just 34 years old, is intent on keeping his job for a long time. Murphy has already raised $1.79 million and retains $1.54 million for his bid, and Cappiello, who Republicans say could be one of their strongest challengers, has raised $654,000 through March. Cappiello retains $420,000 in the bank, a possibly worryingly high burn-rate.

Check back later today for our look at the northern part of the Mid-Atlantic region.

MS Votes In Runoffs

Mississippi voters head to the polls today to cast ballots to pick nominees to replace now-Senator Roger Wicker and Rep. Chip Pickering in districts highly likely to favor Republicans in November. Republicans Greg Davis, the mayor of Southaven, and Glenn McCollough, the former mayor of Tupelo, are fighting over Wicker's First District, while former State Senator Charlie Ross and attorney Gregg Harper are battling over Pickering's Third District, where the incumbent is stepping down.

Wicker's seat, based in the northeast corner of the state, gave President Bush 62% of the vote in 2004 and 59% in 2000. The new senator never had a problem winning election after the retirement of Democratic Congressman Jamie Whitten in 1994. McCollough held a narrow 39%-37% lead after the March 11 primary and got the endorsement of third place finisher Randy Russell.

On the Democratic side, Prentiss County Clerk Travis Childers and State Rep. Steve Holland are fighting for the runoff victory. Childers took a 41%-31% lead on March 11 and appears favored to reach the general election. Whichever candidate wins will have a steep hill to climb to even come within ten points of beating the GOP nominee. Both parties will hold another primary on April 22 to determine nominees to fill the remainder of Wicker's term, a contest that will be decided in a May 13 runoff.

Pickering's Third District, which stretches diagonally from the northeastern border with Alabama, just south of Wicker's seat, to the southwestern border with Louisiana, is similarly Republican. The seat is home to Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Ronald Reagan stopped on his announcement tour. At the time, a Democrat represented the area, but after Rep. Sonny Montgomery stepped down in 2006, Pickering easily won the increasingly heavy Republican district.

In the bid to replace Pickering, Ross narrowly led the primary field with 34% over Harper, who chairs the Rankin County Republican Party and clocked in with 28%. The winner will face Democrat Joel Gill, an alderman from the town of Pickens, in a seat where voters gave President Bush a 31-point win in 2004 and a 29-point win in 2000.

Democrats have other opportunities in the South, most notably this Saturday when voters choose runoff winners in Louisiana's First Congressional District. But for now, it appears that candidates who come out of today's Mississippi Republican runoffs should be safe bets to join Congress in January.

GOP Committee Slots Open

With the retirement of New York Republican Tom Reynolds, another slot will open on the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, a panel that will see an unusually high number of vacancies leading up to the 111th Congress, The Hill's Jackie Kucinich writes today. In all, six of the seventeen members currently sitting on the GOP side of the panel will not return next year.

Reynolds joins Reps. Jim McCrery, Jim Ramstad, Jerry Weller and Ron Lewis in retiring after this Congress. Missouri Rep. Kenny Hulshof is also leaving to run for governor. When McCrery, the ranking member on the committee, announced his resignation late last year, California Rep. Wally Herger and Michigan's Dave Camp launched individual campaigns for the panel's top GOP spot, and with so many other open seats, members are already jockeying for position.

The panel, which covers tax issues, trade, health care and public debt, has holes to fill on the GOP side. Reps. Tom Price, a physician from Georgia, Mike Conaway, a Texas Certified Public Accountant, and Kenny Marchant, a businessman also from Texas, are early campaigners, according to The Hill.

On the Democratic side, only Rep. Michael McNulty, of New York, is stepping aside, a situation similar to that on another powerful committee. In this space, we've noted the large number of vacancies on the House Appropriations Committee, where six Republicans and just one Democrat will retire after 2008.

PA Primary Bad For GOP

As the deadline to register for the Pennsylvania primary passed yesterday, thousands of voters changed their status to the Democratic Party, inching the number of registered party members in the state north of four million for the first time in state history. Aside from presidential politics, the registration boom is part of a continuing shift in certain areas for reasons that will outlast both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

In 2006, Democrats contested three Republican-held seats in the Philadelphia suburbs, beating GOP Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick and Curt Weldon and narrowly missing out on the chance to knock off Rep. Jim Gerlach. Freshmen Democrats Patrick Murphy and Joe Sestak are favored to win re-election in their suburban districts, which for generations has voted Republican, though the GOP still holds out hope.

But the areas are changing, and Gerlach, the sole survivor of the 2006 massacre, could find himself in more trouble as more suburban voters get used to casting ballots for Democrats. Several counties that have experienced the highest increase in Democratic registration are in those Philadelphia suburbs, the Associated Press reports, and though Republicans still maintain registration edges in those counties, the advantage is shrinking.

Murphy, who represents Bucks County and a few neighborhoods in the northern part of Philadelphia, beat Fitzpatrick in the state's Eighth District by a mere 1,500 votes two years ago. Sestak, a retired naval rear admiral, has Delaware County and beat Weldon in the Seventh District by twelve points after the Republican's home was raided by the FBI just days before the election. The lone Republican, Gerlach, won a 3,000 vote victory against a Democratic challenger who outspent him in the more exurban Sixth District, which extends west to Chester County.

Murphy and Sestak are likely to be safe, especially during a presidential election year: John Kerry and Al Gore won both districts in 2000 and 2004, though by narrow margins, and turnout is expected to be high again this year. Gerlach, who should be a top Democratic target, faces a retired businessman in Bob Roggio after his 2004 and 2006 opponent, businesswoman Lois Murphy, declined to run again.

Roggio is unlikely to raise the impressive sums Murphy did in both her contests, but he's an experienced field operative, having run Kerry's Philadelphia campaign in 2004 and Senator Bob Casey's efforts in suburban Philadelphia in 2006. While Gerlach may be able to win a more comfortable re-election this year, his long-term prospects don't look as good, thanks to booming Democratic registration.

Dems' Red-To-Blue, Round 2

House Democrats this week announced the second round of challengers the party will back as part of its Red-To-Blue program, an operation that provides material and advisory support to candidates the DCCC thinks has a strong shot at winning GOP-held seats. The program can raise big bucks for a candidate; in 2006, they averaged more than $400,000 per campaign for the 56 targeted seats.

This time, thirteen top recruits will join the eight candidates touted in round one, which the DCCC launched in late January. Several are familiar names for House watchers, though others are first-time candidates running in districts the party did not think were in play until last year.

Several candidates are making a second bid at a seat they narrowly missed in 2006, including Darcy Burner, who lost to incumbent Dave Reichert in Washington; Christine Jennings, who missed beating now-freshman Republican Vern Buchanan by just a few hundred votes in Florida; Larry Kissell, who came up barely short of North Carolina Rep. Robin Hayes; Eric Massa, a slight loser to Randy Kuhl in upstate New York; and Dan Seals, who gave a surprisingly close race to suburban Chicago Rep. Mark Kirk.

First-time candidates are targeting some incumbent Republicans who represent marginal districts and who will never get an easy race. Robert Daskas, a Clark County prosecuting attorney, is giving Republican Rep. Jon Porter a tough challenge in a suburban Las Vegas seat that Al Gore won in 2000. State Representative Steve Driehaus is facing off with Ohio Republican Steve Chabot in his Cincinnati-based district. And Republican Chris Shays faces another tough race, this time from non-profit group director Jim Himes, in Connecticut.

The party is still trying to expand the playing field, targeting several other races where Democrats have not been a factor in recent years, seats that could be more difficult to pick up this time. Of the five candidates on that portion of the list, three are women with experience in government already. Former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes is challenging Republican Sam Graves in a district that surrounds the city. Anne Barth, as we wrote yesterday, is taking on Shelley Moore Capito in central West Virginia. And former State Rep. Suzanne Kosmas is challenging Republican Tom Feeney in wealthy Orlando suburbs east to Cape Canaveral.

The two remaining Red-To-Blue targets come from Michigan, which Democrats have big hopes of winning after recent gains in the state legislature and after re-electing Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm despite an ongoing economic crisis in the state. State Senate Democratic Leader Mark Schauer is taking on first-term Rep. Tim Walberg, who beat out a more moderate Republican incumbent last year in what is rapidly becoming a swing district. And former State Lottery Commissioner Gary Peters is challenging Joe Knollenberg in his northern Oakland County seat. Knollenberg outspend his Democratic opponent nearly eight to one in 2006 and won by just six points.

The Red-To-Blue program certainly doesn't guarantee success -- many challengers from last cycle are not members of Congress today. But if the party can keep funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into these and more races to come, House Republicans may have even more difficult situations on their hands. Democrats, though, have their own troubles: What Speaker Nancy Pelosi called an "embarrassment of riches."

Pelosi wrote a letter to colleagues this week, Politico's Patrick O'Connor reported, urging them to pour more money into the DCCC's coffers and to expand the wide fundraising lead the committee already enjoys over the NRCC. "At this point," Pelosi wrote, "we simply cannot afford to fund all the races we will have." She cited Bill Foster's victory in the Illinois suburbs as proof of the positive landscape the party faces.

House Giving Favors Dems

A new report from the Federal Election Commission shows House Democrats were more generous with their own campaign cash than House Republicans in the first thirteen months of the cycle. The transfers, from candidates' campaign committees to the DCCC and the NRCC, are just a part of the large cash disadvantage Republicans face.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which had nearly $35.1 million in the bank through January 31, accumulated the money with the assistance of about $18.4 million from their caucus members. Top donors included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who kicked in $785,000; Whip Jim Clyburn, with $770,000; Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who donated $685,000; committee chairs Charlie Rangel and Barney Frank, with $685,000 and $550,000, respectively; caucus chairman Rahm Emanuel, who gave $475,000; and current DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen, who donated $435,000 to his own cause.

Those numbers do not include Democratic members' pledges to raise additional funds for the DCCC. Depending on their position in the House, members have to raise additional funds for the committee, ranging from less than $100,000 to tens of millions of dollars. How much each member has to raise, though, is a closely-guarded secret.

Republicans lagged far behind Democratic contributions, with just $10.6 million in donations to the beleaguered NRCC. Minority Leader John Boehner dropped $845,000 from his own campaign account, while Reps. Dave Camp ($480,000), Wally Herger ($300,000), Kay Granger ($265,000) and Cliff Sterns ($262,500) wrote big checks. All four are said to be seeking prime committee slots. Retiring Reps. Jim McCrery and Jim Saxton helped out, donating $490,000 and $275,000 from their soon-to-be-shuttered campaign accounts.

While Republicans have a smaller caucus than Democrats, their average member is still giving far less than the average Democrat. Democrats are ponying up just shy of $80,000 per member, while Republicans are giving about $53,500 each. What is more impressive is that most Democratic freshmen, especially those facing tough re-election battles, are forgiven dues for at least their first term.

Boehner, who has worked hard to keep his caucus together, has grown increasingly frustrated with some members. At a GOP caucus meeting last week, Boehner told members to get off their "dead asses," as Politico's Patrick O'Connor reported, to help the NRCC raise money. NRCC chair Tom Cole and minority whip Roy Blunt also urged members to help the committee raise money for the party's March 12 fundraising dinner, O'Connor wrote.

Even if the NRCC makes its $7.5 million goal, and even if members begin handing over more sizable checks to the national party, Republicans have a long way to go to catch up. The NRCC reported just $6.4 million in the bank after January 31, nearly $29 million behind Democrats.

Democrats are raising more money than Republicans virtually across the board, and compared with 2005, the last pre-election year, and 2003, the last pre-presidential year, Democrats are performing better than they were and showing increases that outpace the GOP. In 2007, the DCCC's cash receipts grew 57%, while the committee's receipts grew 136% over 2003. Republicans, meanwhile, saw their fundraising shrink by 22% from 2005 and 31% over 2003.

Dems Have $28M Advantage

The campaign wing of the House Republican caucus narrowly outraised its Democratic counterpart in January, though the NRCC remains well behind the DCCC in total cash in the bank. FEC reports released yesterday show a minor victory for NRCC chair Tom Cole, but DCCC chief Chris Van Hollen retains bragging rights.

In January, the NRCC raised almost $3.8 million and has a bank account of $6.4 million. They retain a debt of slightly over $2.3 million. The DCCC raised just over $3.7 million and spent much more than Republicans. Democrats have $35.5 million in the bank and $1.7 million in debts and obligations.

Senate Republicans are in relatively better position with regard to their Democratic opponents. The NRSC raised $3.5 million in January, banking $1.2 million of that for a total bank account of $13.2 million. But the DSCC raised $3.9 million last month, a faster clip than the NRSC, and ended with $30.5 million cash on hand.

While Senate Republicans enjoy a smaller disadvantage than their House counterparts, their fundraising pace has been slower than each of the other three committees in recent months. They banked more than Democrats last month by spending $600,000 less than the DSCC.

While both Democratic campaign wings are easily outpacing their GOP counterparts in money in the bank, Howard Dean's Democratic National Committee fell farther behind Mike Duncan's Republican National Committee last month. The DNC raised $5.76 million in January and banked just $60,000, ending the month with $3 million in the bank and a $250,000 debt. The RNC, meanwhile, pulled in $11.8 million and kept more than $21.7 million in the bank.

In total, Democrats have a big fundraising advantage. Together, the three committees have $69 million in the bank, while Republican committees have $41.3 million lying around.

GOP Approps Battle Settled

Though half a dozen Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee will retire at the end of the 110th Congress, Mississippian Roger Wicker's elevation from the lower chamber to Trent Lott's open Senate seat touched off a scramble in recent weeks for his vacated seat on the powerful panel. The fierce campaigning came to an end yesterday, when Alabama Republican Jo Bonner won the seat over several rivals.

The Republican Steering Committee, which assigns members to each of the standing bodies in the House, chose Bonner over several other members who ran active and intense, if short-lived, campaigns to convince leaders they deserved the seat more. Bonner will join fellow Alabama Reps. Robert Aderholt, a Republican, and Bud Cramer, a Democrat, on Appropriations.

Others in the running included an eclectic mix of members from across the country who plied Steering Committee members with a variety of arguments. Rep. Dave Reichert, of Washington State, and Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, of Colorado, are considered the members most vulnerable to Democratic challenges last year. Both said a seat on the committee would help firm up their re-election hopes.

Geography was also a factor. In a ten-page proposal to Steering Committee members, Reichert pointed out that he is the only Republican west of the Cascade Mountains from the Canadian border to Los Angeles, and that Democrats had spent $5 million trying to defeat him last year. Reichert also pointed out that, of the 29 Republicans on the panel, just four represented the West, including two from California and one each from Idaho and Montana. Adding another Washingtonian, he said, would create more balance.

Arizona Republican Jeff Flake also sought a seat on the panel, though for vastly different reasons. As one of the very few members who does not participate in the earmark process, Flake has spent years railing against out-of-control federal spending and has frequently offered amendments on the floor to strip earmarks from bills.

Given Republicans' new arguments against earmarks, and support for Flake from many outside conservative groups around Washington, many thought Flake might have a shot at serving as the committee's resident nay-sayer. Flake pointed out that Republican Leader John Boehner, a key member of the Steering Committee, is another member who does not accept earmarks. Still, Flake was seen by many as too much of a maverick on other issues to be rewarded with a rare opportunity to join the committee. It's not the first time Flake has found trouble on committees; at the end of the 109th Congress, he was booted from the Judiciary Committee when other, less senior members kept their seats.

Choosing Bonner, too, was seen as a rebuke of NRCC chairman Tom Cole, of Oklahoma, who had also made known his interest in serving on the panel, the Politico writes. Cole, whose NRCC lags far behind Democrats in cash on hand heading into this year's elections, told Steering Committee members a spot on the committee could help him raise more money and close the gap. Many felt that was the wrong message to send as Republicans try to cast themselves as reform-minded outsiders. A spokesman told Politics Nation that Cole withdrew his name from consideration before the Steering Committee made their decision.

Bonner, who also scored the nod over South Carolina Republican Henry Brown, was seen as a safe choice, according to Politico, and is a favorite of ranking member Jerry Lewis, of California. With Reps. Ralph Regula, Jim Walsh, David Hobson, John Peterson, Ray LaHood and Dave Weldon retiring next year, most candidates who tried this year will have another opportunity to run again in the next Congress.

Still, by picking a third member from Alabama, some believe Boehner and the rest of the Steering Committee passed up a chance either to inoculate Reichert or Musgrave from challenges this year or to reinforce their new message contrasting themselves with Democrats on spending and earmarks, by appointing Flake.

NM Races Set

Republican Senator Pete Domenici's retirement announcement in October initiated a trickle down of vacancies throughout the New Mexico congressional delegation, as the state's three House members have all filed for his seat. With Tuesday's candidate filing deadline, the races for the June 3 primary in the two open Republican seats are now set.

In the vast 2nd District, which covers roughly the southern half of the state, Rep. Steve Pearce leaves a safely Republican seat for his second shot at the Senate. He lost in the 2000 Republican primary for Senate before winning the open House seat in 2002.

Hoping to keep the seat in Republican hands, among others, is Ed Tinsley, a small business owner and rancher, and Aubrey Dunn, a retired bank president. The Republican nominee will start the general election with an advantage, as President Bush won 58% here in 2004. Both candidates reported having close to $300,000 cash on hand at the end of 2007.

Leading Democratic candidates include Dona Ana County Commissioner Bill McCamley, who has more than $200,000 cash on hand, and business owner Harry Teague, who reported having more than $350,000.

Teague's candidacy hit a major snag this week, however, when the Albuquerque Tribune reported that he and his company were named in a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former employee. Teague is specifically accused of ignoring a sexual harassment complaint by the former employee against a male coworker while she was working at one of Teague's companies. How long this matter remains in the news will greatly affect Teague's chances in the Democratic primary.

New Mexico's 1st District is centrally-located and tiny compared to the state's other two districts. The population of this swing district is 43% Hispanic, and gave John Kerry a 3-point win in 2004. It includes Albuquerque, the state's largest city, and some of its suburbs.

Rep. Heather Wilson has held this seat since 1998, when she won a special election with 45%. Her highest percentage since then has been 55%, with her closest margin of victory coming in 2006, when she defeated Patricia Madrid by 861 votes out of more than 200,000 cast. With Wilson vacating the seat, this is prime pickup territory for Democrats.

Leading the small pack of Democrats who have filed for the seat are Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich and former state Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham. Heinrich reported having close to $300,000 cash on hand, and Grisham has about $100,000.

The leading Republican in the 1st District is Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White, who has close to $200,000 cash on hand. Also running for the nomination is State Senator Joe Carraro, who finished second in the Republican primary for Senate in 2006. However, Carraro has yet to file campaign finance papers with the FEC.

National Republicans clearly favor White, who has won several elections in a jurisdiction that covers the vast majority of the district. NRCC chair Tom Cole told Politics Nation last week that while Wilson has been one of the better candidates he's seen, White is even better.

Both parties will likely spend lots of money here, as Democrats eye a chance to expand their majority, and Republicans fight to hold on to one of their swing districts.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Illinois Selects Cong Nominees

Illinois voters cast ballots for more than just the presidential race Tuesday night when they kicked off the first Congressional primary balloting of the 2008 season.

Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski survived another primary challenge in the 3rd District. After succeeding his father, Bill Lipinski, in this Cook County district in 2004, Lipinski has faced challenges from the left in the last two Democratic primaries.

This year, Lipinski defeated well-financed, yet splintered competition. Attorney Mark Pera outspent Lipinski 3-to-1, but with two other challengers taking votes, he was unable to keep up with Lipinski, who won with 53%. Lipinski will likely not worry as much about the general election after winning in 2006 with 77%.

The 3rd District primary was far from the only competitive race on February 5.

In the competitive and expensive Republican special primary race for former Speaker Dennis Hastert's 14th District seat, dairy magnate Jim Oberweis rode his personal bank account and Hastert's endorsement to a 56%-44% victory over State Senator Chris Lauzen. Oberweis also had some help from Lauzen, who made some critical errors during the campaign, including accepting -- and then returning -- some $100,000 from a company under investigation from the Illinois attorney general's office. This, as well as Lauzen using his status to secure Rose Bowl tickets, allowed Oberweis to use the corruption card and make it stick. Lauzen's criticism of Hastert did not help his cause either.

Oberweis will take on scientist Bill Foster in the March 8 special general election, the winner of which will serve the remainder of Hastert's term in the 110th Congress. Despite being the favorite of Washington Democrats, and enjoying a massive financial edge, Foster won a close race on the Democratic side, winning 49%-43% over John Laesch, the 2006 Democratic nominee for the seat.

Oberweis and Foster also won their parties' primaries to run in November's general election, though Foster's margin over Laesch was less than a point. Oberweis is the favorite here, as President Bush won the district with 55% in 2004. Still, the DCCC pointed to strong voter turnout as a reason to be excited. "Illinois Republicans chose to stay home rather than vote in a divisive primary while Illinois Democrats and Independents turned out in record numbers to stand for change in former Speaker Hastert's Republican leaning district," DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer said.

Elsewhere, State Rep. Aaron Schock won the Republican primary in the 18th District, which Rep. Ray LaHood will vacate at the end of the year. Schock, well-financed and a party favorite, won 72% of the vote against two big-spending competitors. After a late withdrawal, Democrats have yet to find a candidate to face Schock in November.

In the 11th District, where Rep. Jerry Weller is stepping down after his 7th term in office, Tim Baldermann, the New Lenox mayor and Chicago Ridge police chief, was the favorite going in to yesterday's primary, and came out with a 62% victory.

Baldermann will face a more challenging race in the general election against State Senator Debbie Halvorson, who faced no primary challenge and has $400,000 cash on hand. This district has already been selected for the DCCC's Red-to-Blue program, which financially supports viable Democratic candidates running for a Republican seat.

Two incumbents who could face a competitive general election include Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean and Republican Rep. Mark Kirk. Bean's district gave Bush 56% in 2004, and Bean garnered just 51% in 2006 against an opponent who spent more than $5 million. She will face Republican businessman Steve Greenberg, who spent close to $350,000 in the Republican primary, and will likely receive financial support from the NRCC.

"Republicans are well positioned to retain not only our open seats in Illinois," NRCC spokesperson Ken Spain said, "but we are prepared to be on the offensive against Melissa Bean in the fall." National Democrats also felt good about their prospects in the 11th and 14th districts, and liked their chances against Kirk in the 10th District as well.

Kirk won by just 6 points in 2006, despite outspending his Democratic opponent Dan Seals by about 2-to-1. Seals easily won the Democratic primary yesterday for the chance to take on Kirk again in November. The district gave John Kerry 53% of the vote in 2004, and if Seals can continue to raise money, his name recognition from the last election may be enough to make this race even closer than in 2006.

-- Kyle Trygstad

NRCC Fraud Looks Bad

House Republicans have been briefed twice on an unfolding scandal that may put the committee's financial situation in question over the last several years, top Republicans with knowledge of the investigation tell Politico. The investigation, which centers on the committee's accounting over the last several years, remains murky, and committee employees are still staying quiet because the FBI is involved.

As Politics Nation first reported, the one-time employee involved, longtime NRCC comptroller Christopher Ward, was being employed as an outside vendor for both the NRCC and several other campaign committees. Politico reports several Republicans with knowledge of the investigation say the fraud, as NRCC chair Tom Cole described it in a statement last week, could go back several years.

The new scandal is yet another hit the NRCC has taken in a year full of political bumps and bruises. More than two dozen House Republicans will not return to Congress next year, a large number by any year's standards, and the committee's lack of financial resources -- they have $5 million cash on hand, compared with Democrats' $35 million, FEC records show -- make fending off what looks like another good year for Democrats all the more difficult.

Previewing IL Primaries

While the country's attention tomorrow will be focused on the more than 20 presidential primaries, the first congressional primaries of the 2008 season will also take place in the Land of Lincoln. With three open seats, including a special election to fill the remainder of former Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert's term, the Illinois primaries will initiate some long, competitive general election races.

Republican Rep. Jerry Weller, stepping down from his 11th District seat, won just 55% last year despite a large fundraising advantage. Democrats are targeting this seat and have a candidate they like in State Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson, who has close to $400,000 in her campaign treasury and is unopposed in the primary.

The favorite on the Republican side is Tim Baldermann, New Lenox mayor and Chicago Ridge police chief. He's raised more than $100,000 so far, and is being opposed in the primary by Terry Heenan and Jimmy Lee, the latter of which has outspent Baldermann but badly trails in cash on hand. The winner of the GOP primary will need plenty of financial support for the general election, as Halvorson has already made the DCCC's Red-to-Blue list, which promises generous fundraising support.

The special primary for Hastert's seat has been hotly contested on the GOP side, as we've reported earlier. The GOP and Democratic winners of the special primary will face off March 8 to fill the remainder of Hastert's term. They will likely be the same winners of the coinciding primary for the party nominations for the November general election, meaning the excitement from the special election will likely carry on through the next 10 months.

Dairy magnate Jim Oberweis is the front-runner on the GOP side. Having devoted a large amount of his own resources to the campaign, and having entered the race after running for office before, Oberweis owns a hefty head start in both name recognition and ad spending. What he might lack to State Senator Chris Lauzen, his chief opponent, in an established organization is made up with help from Hastert, who is backing Oberweis. Democrats are enthusiastic about Bill Foster, a scientist independently wealthy enough to stay financially competitive with Oberweis in a general.

Due to former basketball coach Dick Versace's precipitous exit from the race, there will be no Democrats on the ticket in Illinois's 18th District primary. The party will choose its nominee after February 5. So the only excitement will be on the GOP side, as three Republicans are spending big as they vie for the chance to succeed Rep. Ray LaHood, who's stepping down at the end of the year.

State Rep. Aaron Schock has spent more than $500,000 on the race. He's being opposed by television executive John Morris and Heartland Partnership CEO Jim McConoughey, who have both spent at least $250,000. Schock is expected to make it through the primary.

One incumbent tomorrow faces yet another difficult primary challenge. In Cook County's 3rd District, Rep. Daniel Lipinski's moderate record and what opponents call blatant nepotism makes him a biennial target in the primary. Three Democrats are giving serious challenge to the 2-term incumbent.

Mark Pera, a local high school board president, has outspent Lipinski by close to a 3-to-1 margin, and outraised him by more than $150,000. Pera's chances are probably the best against Lipinski, but Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett has spent more than $150,000, and Army Lt. Col. Jim Capparelli dispersed about $85,000. The presence of the two other candidates could hurt Pera, an attorney, in his bid to knock off Lipinski, who four years ago became the Democratic nominee when his father, a long-time incumbent, dropped out at the last minute. The winner of the Democratic primary will be heavily favored in the general election.


-- Kyle Trygstad

Freshmen Dems Are Rich

To continue our earlier post, a few other freshman Democrats who won districts carried by President Bush in 2004 are worth mentioning:

-- Chris Carney, in Pennsylvania's 10th District, was given some serious help in 2006 by the incumbent, who had been sued by his alleged mistress for physically assaulting her. That put the district in play for Democrats, and with Bush winning 60% here in 2004 and ethically-dogged former Rep. Don Sherwood out of the picture, the district is back in play for Republicans. Carney reported having some $763,000 cash on hand at the end of 2007, after raising $232,000 in the 4th quarter. He will need to keep up his fundraising, as two Republicans -- wheelchair manufacturing executive Dan Meuser and businessman Chris Hackett -- each reported having close to $400,000 cash on hand.

-- Jerry McNerney, in California's 11th District, came back from a 2004 defeat to upset incumbent Richard Pombo, the former Resources Committee chairman, in 2006. Bush won 54% in 2004 in this district positioned east of the Bay Area. Republicans are targeting this district; an assemblyman dropped out last year so the party's nominee would not need to go through a costly primary. Former Assemblyman Dean Andal appears he will be the nominee, and had a healthy fundraising year, finishing 2007 with close to $500,000 cash on hand. McNerney nearly doubled that amount, reporting $925,000 cash on hand.

-- Zack Space, in Ohio's 18th District, was also helped out in 2006 by a scandal-plagued incumbent. Former House Administration Committee chairman Bob Ney dropped out of the race in August, but did not resign his seat until days before the November election, keeping his scandal fresh in the minds of voters. Space topped Bush's 57% take in 2004, defeating Republican Joy Padgett 62%-38%. He reported having some $756,000 cash on hand, after raising close to $300,000 in the 4th quarter. He has three Republican challengers with at least $20,000 cash on hand, but none have yet to total $100,000 in receipts.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Dem Freshman Overperform

Forty-two new Democrats entered the House of Representatives after the 2006 elections, about half of whom won districts President Bush carried in 2004. These freshmen, due to the make-up of their districts, became instant targets for Republicans, and were forced to instantly begin raising money for the next election.

With yesterday's year-end filing deadline, the top fundraising performers in 2007 were uncovered. In Florida's 16th District, Rep. Tim Mahoney, who took over the seat once held by Mark Foley, reported having about $1.5 million cash on hand after raising more than $400,000 in the 4th quarter. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, from New York's 20th District, was the only freshman to top Mahoney, reporting just more than $2 million cash on hand after a $440,000 4th quarter.

Other freshman Democrats in Bush-won districts who appear ready financially to handle a tough Republican challenge include:

-- Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona's 8th District: $1.3 million cash on hand, $272,000 raised in the 4th quarter. Giffords faces a strong challenge from Republican State Senate President Tim Bee, who came close to $300,000 raised after the 4th Quarter.

-- Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania's 8th District: $1.2 million cash on hand, $220,000 raised in the 4th quarter. Republicans are excited about a new recruit who just joined the race, but the Philadelphia suburbs have been difficult for the GOP lately, and Murphy's strong fundraising performance could keep him in office for a long time.

-- John Hall, New York's 19th District: $1 million cash on hand, $326,000 raised in the 4th quarter. Hall got help from across the aisle when a top Republican recruit opted not to run. Next year, the former Orleans front man will likely be, if you'll pardon the pun, Still the One.

-- Jason Altmire, Pennsylvania's 4th District: $911,000 cash on hand, $239,000 raised in the 4th quarter. Altmire faces a well-funded challenge from the woman he beat, former Rep. Melissa Hart, in this suburban Pittsburgh district. Hart has about a third of what Altmire has in the bank, but if Republicans are going to retake a seat, Pennsylvania 4 presents as good a chance as any.

-- Baron Hill, Indiana's 9th District: $862,000 cash on hand, $243,529 raised in the 4th quarter. Hill will once again face former Rep. Mike Sodrel, the fourth time the two have battled over the Southeastern Indiana district. Sodrel, a trucking executive, will be well-funded, but after two wins in three chances, Hill maintains the upper hand.

-- Tim Walz, Minnesota's 1st District: $843,000 cash on hand, $250,000 raised in the 4th quarter. While Republicans were hopeful their recruits -- a state senator and state representative -- would be able to compete in a district long held by Republican Rep. Gil Gutknecht. Still, Walz has outraised both by a Texas mile, and GOP attention seems to have shifted away from the district.

More on these and other top freshman Democratic performers to come...

-- Kyle Trygstad

DCCC Launches Red-To-Blue

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Chris Van Hollen today tapped three trusted lieutenants to head up a pivotal program that helped the party pick up dozens of Republican-held seats last year. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alabama Rep. Artur Davis and Iowa freshman Bruce Braley will co-chair the Red-to-Blue program, Van Hollen announced today.

The program, which targets promising recruits running against GOP incumbents, rewards prospects for proving fundraising and campaigning abilities by providing financing and assistance. It is also a leading indicator for which Republican members the committee views as most vulnerable.

Van Hollen and Wasserman Schultz co-chaired the successful program in 2006, helping raise more than $22.6 million for 56 candidates, according to the DCCC. In 2004, Red-to-Blue raised $7.5 million for 27 candidates. In all, 42 new Democrats were elected to Congress in 2006, including 24 who defeated GOP incumbents and eight who won an open seat that had been vacated by a Republican.

The preliminary list of targeted candidates includes Democratic challengers running for eight GOP-held open seats and three special elections. Five of the eight candidates running for open seats are candidates who ran in 2006 and lost by fewer than 3 points. Second-timers include Dan Maffei, who lost to Rep. Jim Walsh in New York's 25th District, Mary Jo Kilroy, who narrowly lost Ohio's 15th District to Deborah Pryce, Linda Stender, in New Jersey's 7th District, Gary Trauner in Wyoming and Charlie Brown, who missed beating John Doolittle in California's 4th District. First-time challengers John Adler, in New Jersey's 3rd District, Ohio 16's John Boccieri and Debbie Halvorson in Illinois' 11th District are all state senators running in open seats.

Also listed are three seats with special elections that will take place this year, including seats being vacated by Republican Reps. Denny Hastert and Richard Baker and a seat left open after the death of Democratic Rep. Julia Carson. Carson's seat is the only Democratic seat listed, and her grandson, Indianapolis City-County Councilor Andre Carson will be the Democratic nominee in the March special election.

Notably absent from the first wave of Red-to-Blue candidates are those who face a competitive primary. One likely list member is Ann Kirkpatrick, a well-funded former state legislator who has received endorsements from EMILY's List and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and whose top Republican competition dropped out three weeks ago. Kirkpatrick is running in the moderate and sprawling 1st District in Arizona, which is being vacated by the scandal-plagued Republican Rick Renzi.

Two other districts likely to make the Red-to-Blue list at some point this year are Minnesota's 3rd District, where Republican Jim Ramstad is retiring, and New Mexico's 1st District, where Republican Heather Wilson is leaving her seat to run for the Senate. President Bush won 51% in both districts in 2004.

The Red-to-Blue list will grow as the year goes on, and a Democratic candidate's inclusion, or exclusion, will indicate the amount of faith the DCCC has in that candidate's chances.

-- Kyle Trygstad

DCCC, DSCC Best Rivals

House and Senate Democratic committees once again outraised their GOP rivals in November, further boosting their fundraising edge in advance of the 2008 election. New filings with the FEC show Democrats expanded their already-historic lead just eleven months after the party took over Congress.

In the House, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $4.1 million last month, ending the month with $30.7 million on had. That's more than ten times above the National Republican Congressional Committee's $2.3 million on hand. The NRCC maintained about $3.3 million in debt, though Republicans reported recently that transfers from candidate committees had provided the party enough cash to wipe out that debt. The DCCC retained about $1.66 million in debt through November.

Those funds do not include the hundreds of thousands of dollars each party spent on special elections earlier this month in Ohio and Virginia. Combined, Republicans dropped more than $500,000 on the two races, while Democrats spent close to $250,000, mostly in Ohio. Republicans handily won both specials to replace their incumbents, who had passed away.

On the Senate side, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $4.15 million last month, leaving them with $25.4 million in the bank and just $2 million in debt. Senate Republicans pulled in just shy of $2.4 million in the month, leaving them $10.4 million to spend. The NRSC is debt-free.

Oh, The Irony

One common complaint Democrats have had about the war in Iraq is that it continues to take what they call much-needed funding away from the war in Afghanistan. That country, they point out, aided al Qaeda and therefore had more to do with the September 11 attacks that got the country into both conflicts to begin with.

Now, Democrats have a bill to get behind in order to provide more attention to Afghanistan. Introduced by Washington State Democrat Adam Smith, a top member of the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committee, the bill calls for an increased presence in Afghanistan with the assistance of soldiers redeployed out of Iraq.

The gods of irony are apparently watching Congress these days: The measure has been designated House Resolution 911.

NRCC Debt Free

Top Republicans are expected to announce soon that the National Republican Congressional Committee is finally out of debt, Politico's Patrick O'Connor reports. After almost a year of paying off a massive debt incurred during the 2006 cycle, Republicans in the House helped the struggling committee with transfers of about $3 million this week.

The committee has reported a re-energized fundraising base after two strong wins in special elections in Virginia and Ohio. Much of that new money has come from members of the GOP caucus, including $500,000 donations from both House Minority Leader John Boehner and former Appropriations Committee chairman David Dreier. Retiring Rep. Jim Saxton looks likely to donate some of his remaining war chest to the committee, while others seeking prominent committee slots are likely to pony up big sums as well.

Now out of debt, House Republicans turn their attention to shrinking the huge fundraising edge their Democratic counterparts enjoy. Through October 31, the DCCC maintained $29.2 million cash on hand, with about $2.1 million in debt. Republicans held just $2.5 million with a $3.6 million debt. After spending more than $500,000 to win the two special elections, and after paying down the debt, Republicans still face a long road ahead if they are to take a run at reclaiming seats.

Hyde Dead At 83

Former Illinois Congressman Henry Hyde has died at the age of 83, House Minority Leader John Boehner's office has reported. Hyde spent 32 years in Congress, rising to serve as chair of the House Judiciary and International Relations Committees before retiring last year. For his service, President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier this month.

A conservative who represented the western suburbs of Chicago, Hyde's career included creating the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the so-called Hyde Amendment, which limited federal funding for abortions. Never a lock-step Republican, he opposed the war in Iraq long before it turned unpopular, and he was an original sponsor of the Brady Bill and other gun control measures.

In his role as Judiciary chairman, Hyde was one of 13 impeachment managers who went before the Senate to argue for a conviction. Of those 13, just four are still in the House -- Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, Steve Buyer, Steve Chabot and Chris Cannon. Sen. Lindsey Graham also served as a manager.

Population Shifts Toward GOP

The new Almanac of American Politics is out, and statistics within the Bible for political junkies show a rapidly changing American political landscape. Population, statistics show, is draining from the Midwest and Northeast and pouring into southern, sunnier states. It will take a decade for the results to be evident, but one thing is sure: With changes as rapid as these, the electoral college math in 2012 will be dramatically different from what it is in 2008.

Of the ten fastest-growing districts in America, not one cast their ballots for John Kerry in 2004. All but one, Rep. Nick Lampson's Texas 22 seat, are held by Republicans, and Lampson, some will argue, is only back in Congress because his opponent didn't have her name on the ballot. Lampson is a top target of House Republicans next year and looks to be in serious danger.

But the nine other seats are not all safely Republican. Rep. Jon Porter will face a strong challenge in Nevada 03, the Las Vegas suburbs, while Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, of Florida's 5th District, represents a district that held a Democrat at the beginning of the decade. Arizona Reps. Jeff Flake and Trent Franks come in at numbers one and two, and new residents of the state have registered overwhelmingly Democratic, according to the East Valley Tribune. Neither Flake nor Franks are in immediate danger, but a generation from now, the districts will not look the same as they do today.

The fastest-growing Congressional Districts between 2000 and 2005, with change percentage:

1. Arizona 06 -- Flake (+36.3%)
2. Arizona 02 -- Franks (+34%)
3. Nevada 03 -- Porter (+32.1%)
4. Florida 05 -- Brown-Waite (+26.9%)
5. California 44 -- Calvert (+23.8%)
6. Texas 10 -- McCaul (+23.4%)
7. Texas 22 -- Lampson (+22.6%)
8. Texas 03 -- Sam Johnson (+22.4%)
9. Florida 14 -- Mack (+21.6%)
10. California 45 -- Bono (+21.6%)

On the other hand, Democrats own all ten of the fastest-shrinking Congressional Districts. The regions are heavily biased toward the Midwest and Northeast, where an aging population and a waning industrial base are hurting growth. All ten districts are based around urban areas, many of which are hemorrhaging population to suburbs.

None of the districts are in any real danger of going Republican -- save Rep. Julia Carson's Indianapolis-based 7th District, which is only in danger because of a perennially weak incumbent -- but if states and districts fail to keep pace with the rest of the nation's growth, Democratic seats will have to be cut during the 2010 redistricting.

The ten fastest-shrinking districts, with percentage of population lost between 2000 and 2005:

1. Ohio 11 -- Jones (-9.1%)
2. Michigan 13 -- Kilpatrick (-7.9%)
3. Illinois 09 -- Schakowsky (-7.9%)
4. Pennsylvania 02 -- Fattah (-7.4%)
5. Pennsylvania 14 -- Doyle (-7.4%)
6. New York 28 -- Slaughter (-7.1%)
7. Michigan 14 -- Conyers (-6.7%)
8. Illinois 05 -- Emanuel (-5.1%)
9. California 08 -- Pelosi (-5.1%)
10. Indiana 07 -- Carson (-5.0%)

The statistics also show that, when a presidential candidate says they can compete in all 50 states, they are probably exaggerating their appeal. It is highly unlikely, for example, that any Democrat could carry the four states in which Al Gore failed to garner even 30% of the vote in 2000. Do not look for Democrats to spend ad money in Alaska, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.

Neither should one expect a Republican to spend any hard-earned dollars in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, states where President Bush won his lowest totals in 2004 and 2000, respectively.

In all, Republicans still control rural America, and Democrats should be very pleased that the electoral college does not count by county. In 2004, George Bush won 2530 counties, while John Kerry took home just 583 counties.

The Almanac also sheds some light on the more fun side of Congress. For those in Politics Nation who remain true political geeks, it will help to know that New York City was the birthplace of 32 members of Congress, followed by Chicago and Los Angeles at 10 apiece. Washington, D.C., was where just six members were born. Oh, and don't forget that Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich is the only member of Congress to list all the bowling allies in his district on his Congressional website.

New Kid Learns Fast

Rep. Niki Tsongas, elected just weeks ago in an October 20 special election to replace retiring Rep. Marty Meehan in Massachusetts' Fifth District, sure doesn't waste time. The barely-freshman has already launched her first effort to bring money back to her district, which hugs the New Hampshire state line in the northern part of the state.

Tsongas, with the help of Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, secured $240,000 in funds in the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations conference committee report being debated by the Senate today. The money will go to the Lowell Community Health Center, a nonprofit that serves the district's largest city. The organization, says Tsongas Chief of Staff Katie Elbert, will use the money to buy equipment for a new clinical service center.

The bill also includes some earmarks left over from Meehan's tenure. But just two weeks in, Tsongas looks like she's got the hang of this Congress thing.

Polling SCHIP

As the House prepares today to vote to override President Bush's veto of a water development bill, an effort that looks likely to succeed, Democrats are hoping to put more pressure on the GOP over the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which appears headed for a second presidential veto.

In a letter circulated to colleagues yesterday and obtained by Roll Call's David Drucker, DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen suggested the issue has cost incumbent Republicans Joe Knollenberg (MI-09), Kenny Hulshof (MO-09) and Thelma Drake (VA-02) significant support.

Knollenberg, according to a poll conducted for the DCCC by Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, dropped 5 points between an April benchmark and a 10/30-11/2 poll. Knollenberg now leads his probable opponent, Michigan Lottery Commissioner Gary Peters, by a slim 42%-35% margin.

Van Hollen cited similar drops in support for Hulshof and Drake, though he did not release specific poll numbers. Republicans reacted angrily, saying the polls proved Democrats were trying to politicize children's health care. Several top Republicans suggest the party will try to change the conversation on SCHIP from one focusing on health care to one focusing on runaway federal spending.

Still, the Democratic polls show the GOP still has work to do. The polls included an informed ballot question on SCHIP, which, in Knollenberg's case turned his seven-point lead into a seven-point deficit. Knollenberg's campaign manager dismissed the poll question as misleading, but that may not be enough to save some in the GOP. Given a significant cash advantage over the NRCC, the DCCC can afford to pay for ads hitting the other party on any issue they wish. Hulshof's district, for example, has been a prime target despite voting overwhelmingly for President Bush in 2004 and being left off both parties' target lists in recent years.

House Dems Beat GOP, Again

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee continued to outpace Republicans on the fundraising circuit in September, hauling in $8.5 million for the month, new FEC filings will show. The committee retains $28.3 million in the bank. The NRCC, meanwhile, raised $2.6 million, but kept up its high burn rate, spending all but $6,000. Republicans kept $1.6 million in the bank.

The NRCC's high burn-rate can be attributed to the committee's efforts to pay down its debt, which remains at $3.85 million. Chairman Tom Cole told reporters on Wednesday that the committee pays down at least part of its debt every week, judging that a debt-free committee is more valuable than a high cash-on-hand number coupled with a high debt.

The DCCC is still $2.9 million in debt.

Only the Republican National Committee has consistently outraised its Democratic counterpart this year, while the DCCC and the DSCC beat the NRCC and NRSC virtually every month. The RNC pulled in $5.8 million and spent $5.28 million, leaving the national committee with $16.5 million in the bank. The DNC and the two Senate committees have yet to release their numbers for September.

Morning Thoughts: Tourists Rejoice!

Good Thursday morning. Summer keeps sticking around Washington, though every morning we swear we feel the tide turning. It's judgment day at Fenway Park, but in Washington, here's what's driving the day:

-- The Senate continues debating the Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations bill, while the House takes a critical vote on overriding the president's veto of SCHIP legislation. The veto is likely, many say, to be sustained by a comfortable margin. Still, emboldened by the public's support for the program, House and Senate Democrats have shown little willingness to compromise. In committees, a vote on reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was pulled from the House floor yesterday after Republicans employed a parliamentary maneuver, so the Senate Intelligence Committee takes up the matter today instead. Judge Michael Mukasey undergoes a second day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, as they weigh his appointment as Attorney General.

-- Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the Republican who served longest in that post, will resign his seat soon, two sources told CNN's Deirdre Walsh yesterday. Hastert, one source said, "is just done with being a member of Congress." Hastert was House Speaker from 1999 to the end of 2006. The move sets up a special election in Illinois' 14th District, a seat that leans Republican, though a wealthy Democrat, businessman Bill Foster, will be competitive here. Top Republican candidates include State Sen. Chris Lauzen, businessman Jim Oberweis, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns.

-- Mitt Romney's people are doing nothing to dissuade the notion that it's a two-person GOP race. One adviser on the campaign's payroll emailed fellow Christian conservatives yesterday urging them to back Romney so that Rudy Giuliani doesn't win the GOP nomination, writes Jonathan Martin. While many have wondered whether Romney's Mormonism will hurt him in South Carolina (and it doesn't, with Bob Jones III, at least), we wonder what happens when Christian conservative leaders make a more strenuous push against Giuliani. That could wound his campaign more than Romney's religion, by the end of the day.

-- FEC details keep sticking out like so many sore thumbs, and Washington Post's Paul Kane takes a look at some members in legal trouble who may not be around next year. Rep. William Jefferson, the Louisiana Democrat indicted in the Spring under many counts of corruption, has just $33,000 cash on hand and finds himself in $260,000 worth of debt, most of which comes in the form of loans to himself. He raised just $15,000 in the 3rd Quarter, only $150 of that from someone other than a fellow member of Congress.

-- Rep. John Doolittle, a California Republican, is another ethical retirement threat. He's seen at least nine staffers questioned by authorities, and under threat of indictment he raised just $50,000 and retained just $38,000 cash on hand, and close to the same amount of debt. Doolittle spent more than $2.3 million to beat his Democratic opponent by a narrow margin last year, and that opponent is running again -- though this time Charlie Brown has $380,000 cash on hand, more than ten times what Doolittle has. Chris Cillizza thinks his seat is the most vulnerable Republican seat in the House, assuming Doolittle remains on the ballot. Still, three Republicans are already running against the long-time incumbent, and his chances of surviving a primary look thin.

-- Two big endorsements on the Democratic side today: Washington Post reports that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a former Clinton Administration official and only the second African American governor in modern history, will back Obama, his fellow Harvard Law graduate. For former Sen. John Edwards, his support comes from former Congressman Ben Jones, of Georgia (who later ran in Virginia). If the name doesn't sound familiar to you, consider another way of looking at it. Jones played Cooter Davenport, the mechanic on the Dukes of Hazzard, from 1979 to 1985. M.E. Sprenglemeyer has photos of the grease monkey campaigning through Iowa with his fellow Southerner.

-- Stephen Colbert is running for President. No, really, check out Tom's post yesterday. Very funny, right? Turns out, according to Vanity Fair's Wilshire & Washington, that a Colbert representative contacted the South Carolina Democratic Party weeks ago, and that South Carolina GOP chief Katon Dawson said his office had received a phone call as well. This can't be serious, right?

-- Real Lede Of The Day: Playbook puts it second. The Express ledes with it. It's on the bottom right front page of the Washington Times, bottom left of the Washington Post. That's right, Washington, D.C., cabs will switch from zoned fares to metered fares, per an order by the city's mayor, Adrian Fenty. For years, it was rumored that zone one, which encompassed the Capitol all the way to George Washington University, was established to give members of Congress a cheap ride downtown. No more, says the Mayor. And no more do cabbies get to cheat tourists who know not where they are.

-- Today On The Trail: Fred Thompson is in Kennesaw, Georgia, to accept an endorsement, then fundraises in Atlanta and Powder Springs. John McCain holds town hall meetings in Spartanburg and Greenville, South Carolina, while Rudy Giuliani meets voters in Minneapolis and Chicago. Mitt Romney holds events in Pawleys Island, Florence, Spartanburg and Fort Mill, South Carolina. Mike Huckabee delivers remarks at Franklin Pierce College, then holds events in Peterborough, Concord and Amherst, New Hampshire. On the Democratic side, Clinton attends a health care forum in Washington, Barack Obama has town hall meetings in Reno and North Las Vegas, Joe Biden stops in Sheldon, Cherokee, Storm Lake, Laurena and Lohrville, Iowa, and Bill RIchardson gives a talk in Des Moines, then meets voters at separate events in Nevada (remember, governor: "Ne-vey-da, Iowa") and Des Moines.

Cole: Country In A "Firing Mood"

Meeting with reporters today, National Republican Congressional Committee chief Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said yesterday's narrow Democratic victory in Massachusetts shows that the national political landscape is changing, and that some Democratic strategies employed successfully in 2006 won't work again.

"I suspect [Americans] are in what I've called before a firing mood," Cole said, noting that Republican candidate Jim Ogonowski successfully labeled his Democratic opponent, Rep.-elect Niki Tsongas, as a status quo candidate with the backing of Washington Democrats. The strategy, he said, is one Republican challengers will use next year. "I tell candidates all the time, 'You ought to be running against all of Washington, D.C., and that includes us.'"

The results yesterday show Democrats blew their chance to make a good first impression on the country, Cole said. 'The American people think they've not governed effectively." And if voters are in a firing mood, both parties will suffer, as in 1992 when dozens of incumbents lost with no significant change in the makeup of the House. But because of sheer numbers, Cole argued, Democrats should be nervous. "They've got more incumbents than we do, and they run this institution," he said.

Cole hopes for an atmosphere much like 1992. "I just like the way the battlefield is tilted," he said. "We need a battlefield with a lot of ambiguity ... I feel better about the things I can't control than about the things I hypothetically can." Pointing to the more than 60 districts Democrats hold which voted for President Bush in either 2000, 2004 or both, Cole said the presidential race next year should help some of those seats return to the Republican fold.

Despite recent finance reports showing Cole's NRCC trailing its Democratic counterpart in money available, Cole pointed out that the gap wasn't nearly as big as some Republicans feared. The DCCC has pulled in more than $40 million, while the NRCC has raised more than $30 million, despite a bigger debt it had to pay off. "We've raised that money in the worst of times for us, and they've raised that money in the best of times for them," he said.

Still, with less money in the bank, spending decisions will be hard to make, he said. "We're going to be pretty ruthless in the decisions we make in terms of money because I don't have enough money to be generous."

Rothenberg's Report Bad For GOP

Stu Rothenberg, one of Washington's top election watchers, offered his latest House rating yesterday. The outlook, he says, is not good for Republicans.

Of nine pure toss-ups, Rothenberg includes four incumbent Democrats -- Florida's Tim Mahoney, Kansas' Nancy Boyda, Pennsylvania's Chris Carney and Nick Lampson of Texas -- and five Republican open seats, including AZ-01 (Renzi), IL-11 (Weller), MN-03 (Ramstad), NM-01 (Wilson) and VA-11 (Tom Davis). Another open seat, that of Rep. Deborah Pryce in Ohio, "tilts" Democratic, while Republicans might target four "tilt Democratic" incumbents and Democrats can take on three "tilt Republican" incumbents.

The rankings come the same day the Evans Novak Political Report rated both NM-01 and OH-15 as leaning toward a Democratic takeover.

Rep. Terry Everett To Retire

Read Tom's post for the details.

House Dems, GOPers Take Aim

Press aides for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee were burning the midnight oil last night, sending out hit pieces to state and local media in areas with targeted incumbents. The members each targets says a lot about the 2008 landscape, though both lists need to be read with a grain of salt.

Some districts are realistic takeover possibilities for both sides. Most Democratic targets hail from the Northeast and the Midwest, while just two -- Reps. Robin Hayes (R-NC) and Thelma Drake (R-VA) -- are from the South, not counting three members from Florida. A majority of the Republican targets are freshmen who knocked off incumbents last year, including real take-back opportunities like Reps. Steve Kagen (D-WI) and John Yarmuth (D-KY).

Both parties, though, reach optimistically for some seats. There's little chance that Reps. Vito Fossella (R-NY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) will see real challenges next year, though media outlets in all four districts got the releases.

It's telling that House Democrats have 35 Republicans on their list while Republicans are going after just 17 Democrats. The NRCC has consistently trailed the DCCC in money raised and cash on hand -- Republicans had just $1.97 million in the bank as of July 31, along with a $4.1 million debt, while Democrats had $21.3 million on hand and $3.5 million in debt.

The releases themselves aren't likely to generate any above-the-fold coverage, but they are the first shots over the bow of many: Democrats wanted to know if vulnerable Republicans would call on House Minority Leader John Boehner to apologize for and retract recent comments suggesting the war in Iraq's toll has been a "small price to pay" for stopping al Qaeda. Republicans wondered why targeted Democrats had voted -- "AGAIN" (caps theirs, not ours) -- to allow housing assistance for illegal immigrants.

Full list of targeted members after the jump.

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