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Democrats pull in more cash than GOP

1. Despite facing a difficult electoral environment this fall, the three national Democratic campaign committees outraised their Republican counterparts in August, numbers that should provide something of a boost to the party's hopes of retaining control of the House and Senate this fall.

The largest fundraising margin was between the Democratic National Committee, which raised $10.9 million last month, and the Republican National Committee, which collected $7.9 million.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee brought in $8.3 million, besting the National Republican Congressional Committee's $6.6 million raised during the last month. The DCCC's haul broke a four-month streak where the organization had been outraised by the NRCC.

On the Senate side, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $7.4 million as compared to $6 million collected in August by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

It's worth noting that the trio of Democratic committees have each outspent their Republican counterparts over the past month as they seek to utilize their financial edge to impact competitive races heading into the final weeks of the campaign.

The DNC spent better than $13 million in August -- more than a third of that was transferred to the Senate and House committees and state parties -- while the RNC spent $8.5 million.

The DSCC dropped $7 million in August, more than double the $3.1 million the Senate Republican committee spent; the House Democratic campaign arm disbursed $5 million as compared to $3 million in spending for the NRCC.

Despite that heavy spending, the DNC and DCCC retained significant cash-on-hand leads over their Republican equivalents -- the DCCC ended the month with a whopping $39 million in the bank. On the Senate side, however, Republicans closed the month with a $1.5 million cash-on-hand edge.

While money isn't always determinative in elections -- particularly when the national playing field is heavily tilted toward one party -- it is often a sign of momentum. Given the doom and gloom predictions for Democrats over the past month, the expectation was that Republicans would easily win the cash dash.

That didn't happen -- which means Democrats are not only guaranteed to have a spending advantage in many of the most competitive races in the county, but also could benefit from a bit of unexpected momentum just six weeks before the November midterms.

2. The Republican Governors Association is going up with a new TV ad in Maryland, a 30-second spot that accuses Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) of "moving Maryland backwards."

"With Martin O'Malley as governor, Maryland has moved backward, not forward," the ad's narrator says. "Unemployment has doubled. More than 3,000 Maryland businesses have closed or moved to other states."

The ad goes on to slam O'Malley for passing "the largest tax increase in history," a "20 percent sales tax hike" and "job-killing taxes on business."

The buy, which will run statewide, brings to ten the number of states in which the RGA has launched TV ads. (The other nine states are Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Maine, Georgia, Hawaii, Vermont and Massachusetts.)

The new ad is the latest indication that the RGA continues to try to broaden the playing field this cycle to compete in states where Republican candidates otherwise might have been written off. (In Hawaii, for instance, the RGA has been especially aggressive, airing a series of TV and radio ads on behalf of Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona.)

An independent poll conducted in late August showed O'Malley with a six-point lead over former Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) among likely voters.

Ehrlich's most recent TV ad, released last Thursday, touts the candidate's plan to create jobs and lower taxes. O'Malley's latest ad challenges the former governor's credibility on taxes -- accusing him of being a "typical politician."

3. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is going up this week with the first TV and radio ads of her write-in bid, according to her campaign spokesperson.

Murkowski spokesman Steve Wackowski confirmed that she will launch as ad, perhaps as soon as today, that features Murkowski talking straight to camera about why she's running.

Murkowski, who announced Friday night that she will run as a write-in candidate after losing to attorney Joe Miller in the Aug. 24 Republican primary, has not given any details on how large the ad buy will be or where it will run. But with about $1 million left in her campaign account, the senator still has a sizable amount of money at her disposal.

On Monday, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report shifted the race from "Solid Republican" to "Likely Republican," an indication that Murkowski's presence in the race makes the outcome much less clear.

Miller's camp contends that their candidate will come out on top in a state that voted 59 percent for Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2008 presidential race.

Democrats hope that having both Murkowski and Miller in the race will boost the chances of the little-known Democratic nominee, Sitka Mayor Scott McAdams. (A McAdams spokesperson has said that a win for Murkowski as a write-in would be "statistically impossible.")

And, Murkowski's camp is hoping that her name identification statewide and ample campaign war chest will give her a leg up over her rivals.

Meanwhile, Murkowski named Kevin Sweeney, her state director, as campaign manager. "Kevin has done an outstanding job in his role as state director in reaching out to Alaskans across the state," said Murkowski. "I trust his judgment and abilities."

4. A new Democratic poll in Missouri shows the Senate race between Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) and Rep. Roy Blunt (R) is a dead heat.

The survey, conducted by Democratic pollster Global Strategy Group for the Missouri Democratic Party, shows Carnahan and Blunt tied at 37 percent among likely voters. When those leaning to one candidate or the other are included, Blunt takes 43 percent to Carnahan's 39 percent.

The Democratic poll is more optimistic for Carnahan than other recent surveys. The Real Clear Politics average of surveys in the state gives Blunt a six-point lead.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has gone up with two TV ads in the race, which is considered one of Democrats' few potential pick-ups this cycle. Meanwhile, the conservative outside group American Crossroads has gone up with its own TV ads on behalf of Blunt.

The ad wars have gotten so contentious in recent days that Fox News has sued Carnahan's camp over a TV ad that uses a portion of a "Fox News Sunday" interview with Blunt.

5. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) goes after Senate rival Marco Rubio (R) hard in a new ad highlighting the former state House speaker's pursuit of earmarks.

In the ad, Crist highlights the "$500 million" in earmarks Rubio sought while in the state legislature, including $800,000 to put artificial turf on a flag football field Rubio played on.

Crist also notes that he vetoed many of Rubio's earmarks. "Just remember: the Washington special interests who are paying for Rubio's ads don't want an independent like me looking out for your money," Crist says to the camera.

Meanwhile, Rubio, who has built a double-digit lead in some recent polling, has been able to go with a less-negative approach in his early ads.

In his latest commercial, Rubio obliquely hits politicians "who will do or say anything just to hold office." The reference to Crist is clear, but Rubio doesn't use the governor's name.

Polling done in recent weeks shows Rubio's rise as Crist and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) battle for the support of Democrats.

With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake

By Chris Cillizza  | September 21, 2010; 7:26 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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