There was cake aboard Air Force II this week as Vice President Dick Cheney passed a milestone, his 100th fundraiser of the midterm election cycle.
Counting his Tuesday night dinner for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Vice President has raised $37 million dollars for the party and candidates. Not far behind in the fundraiser count is President Bush (with 68 as of Tuesday night), though he is way ahead in dollars with more than $170 million.
Republicans still hold their traditional lead in campaign donations, raising an astounding $870 million dollars between the candidates, the party and the national campaign committees. Democrats are doing much better than in the past, but they still lag more than $100 million behind the Republicans. A real bright spot for the Democrats is their Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has actually outpaced its Republican counterpart in fundraising.
Political scholar Thomas Mann at the Brookings Institution says that's likely a result of the thought of success breeding success. The possibility that Democrats might take back control of Congress has unleashed a flood of donations from people who don't ordinarily give.
A potential downside for the Democrats is the bickering that's been going on over how much money party chairman Howard Dean is willing to commit to Congressional races. Dean says he'll cough up $12 million, just a fifth of the $60 million his Republican counterpart Ken Mehlman is planning to spend. Dean insists he needs to put money into rebuilding the party's election apparatus on the state level, but many Democrats worry his stinginess with the campaigns may cost them dearly in morale and retirements if they don't capture at least one house in Congress.
There's an old saying in politics. Whoever spends the most, wins. Some analysts believe a rising tide of Democratic support may help to mitigate the fundraising deficit, though the Democrats' Senate committee chairman Chuck Schumer told me he'd still like to have the cash. The Republicans financial advantage WILL make a difference, he said.
'How much of a difference? We'll have to wait and see on Election Day.'