On Saturday a fundraising solicitation arrived in the mail from Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. It asked me to confirm delivery of the enclosed "supporter card" within ten days, and also to "help keep my 2008 re-election campaign on the road to victory" with a special contribution.
Funny, I wasn't aware that Harkin needed any extra help. Everyone in the election forecasting business has labeled this seat safe for him. The available polling shows Harkin with a comfortable lead.
According to Open Secrets, Harkin had $4.1 million cash on hand at the end of the second quarter. His little-known Republican opponent, Christopher Reed, has raised a total of $11,765 for his Senate campaign and had $292 (two hundred and ninety-two dollars) on hand as of June 30.
Harkin's letter got me thinking that we need a "Use It Or Lose It" campaign for 2008.
In 2006, MyDD and MoveOn.org launched a "Use It Or Lose It" campaign to contact "ultra-safe Democratic House Representatives and ask them to help fully fund all of our competitive challengers this cycle." The project spurred at least $2.3 million in additional major donations from House incumbents (click the link to read details).
A similar project targeted at safe incumbents in the House and Senate has the potential to raise even more money this year.
The Democratic House and Senate campaign committees have been crushing their Republican counterparts in fundraising. At the end of the second quarter, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had about $46.2 million cash on hand, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had $54.7 million cash on hand. As of June 30, the DSCC had about twice the cash on hand as the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the DCCC had six times the cash on hand as the National Republican Congressional Committee.
But we should be able to outspend the Republicans even more if our Democrats in safe seats donate more to the relevant committees.
Everyone agrees that the Democrats have an unusually large number of solid pickup opportunities. Here's the Swing State Project list of competitive Senate races. All them are Republican-held but one (Louisiana), and that one is "lean Democratic." Only one Democratic-held seat (New Jersey) is even on the "races to watch" list.
Look at the most recent Senate forecast by Chris Bowers. He's projecting a pickup of six seats. He also lists ten "Democratic held, uncompetitive locks":
Arkansas (Pryor), Delaware (Biden), Illinois (Durbin), Iowa (Harkin), Massachusetts (Kerry), Michigan (Levin), Montana (Baucus), Rhode Island (Reed), South Dakota (Johnson), West Virginia (Rockefeller)
I haven't added up the cash on hand numbers for all those incumbents from the latest FEC filings, but it must total many millions of dollars.
In the past six weeks, the DSCC has sent out many fundraising e-mails touting "11 battleground states" (Alaska, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, and Virginia).
How many more Senate races could become more competitive if the DSCC were able to put significant resources behind our candidates? Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Georgia immediately come to mind.
The netroots are already working hard to promote Democratic challengers for Republican-held seats. Daily Kos has featured 10 House and four Senate candidates in its "Orange to Blue" ActBlue page. MyDD is raising money for five Senate candidates on its "Road to 60" ActBlue page. SenateGuru even went "on strike" until readers donated enough to three of eleven candidates on SenateGuru's ActBlue page.
But it's likely that Tom Harkin alone could donate more to the DSCC than all of the donors to all of those ActBlue pages combined.
Not only that, but safe Democratic incumbents sitting on huge war chests could do a lot for legislative candidates in their home states. A few thousand dollars can go very far in a statehouse race.
I don't mean to pick on Harkin. (After all, he was the only senator to have the guts to vote against confirming Gen. David Petraeus as the new chief of U.S. Central Command last month.)
More to the point, I know Harkin is already helping other Democrats. He has reportedly donated to the Iowa Democratic Party's GOTV efforts. Over the weekend he held a joint event with Becky Greenwald, the Democratic candidate for Iowa's fourth Congressional district. Earlier this summer, he gave $2,000 each to five Iowa House and five Iowa Senate candidates, plus an extra $5,000 to two candidates who received the most votes from constituents in Harkin's "Building Blue" contest. I hear rumors that Harkin will hold fundraisers for other Democratic candidates in key Iowa statehouse races, or perhaps donate substantial amounts to the Iowa House and Senate Democratic leadership funds.
For all I know Harkin has already donated a substantial amount to the DSCC as well. I couldn't find a list of Senate incumbents who have given to that fund.
But still--Harkin had more than $4.1 million in the bank at the end of June, which is more than 14,000 times the amount his Republican challenger had in the bank. Couldn't Harkin dig a little deeper to help the DSCC get behind Scott Kleeb, Jim Slattery, Andrew Rice and other good Democrats?
While I've talked primarily about Senate races in this diary, of course a potential "Use It Or Lose It" 2008 campaign should also focus on some House incumbents. The DCCC has reserved ad time in 51 districts so far, and only 17 of those are Democratic-held. (Click here for the first wave of DCCC ad buys and here to see the 20 districts targeted in the second wave.) I take that to mean that the DCCC feels confident about holding more than 200 of our House seats.
There have to be at least 150 House Democrats who meet the "ultra safe" standard and should be putting more of their campaign funds into the DCCC pot.
Look at Swing State Project's list of competitive House races. Four Republican-held seats are in the "lean Democrat" category, another 11 are "tossups", another 17 are "lean Republican," and at least two dozen more could become competitive with more money for Democratic challengers to spend. Meanwhile, no Democratic-held seats are in the "lean R" category, and only two are even rated tossups.
How many of those Lean R or Likely R races can we break open with more money for challengers to spend? How many races not even on Swing State Project's list right now could become surprise wins for us, along the lines of NH-01 in 2006?
For instance, Swing State Project's list does not currently include the two Republican-held seats in Iowa, but in my opinion both Becky Greenwald in IA-04 and Rob Hubler in IA-05 have a chance to win in a strong Democratic year. (I explain why here and here.)
I look forward to reading your thoughts and suggestions on a possible Use It Or Lose It campaign.