Can Democrats Match Republican Midterm Fundraising?

Juan Williams talks with Steve Inskeep about races in the upcoming mid-term elections. Republicans have survived some recent tough elections by staying well financed and well organized. One question is whether Democrats can match them.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now Republicans have survived some recent tough elections by staying well financed and well organized. One question this year is whether Democrats can match them.

Let's get some analysis this morning from NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams. He's in for Cokie. Juan, good morning.

JUAN WILLIAMS reporting:

Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How are Democrats doing in fundraising?

WILLIAMS: Well, the latest fundraising reports indicate at the most competitive campaigns Democrats are doing much better than they did two years ago. There are already 36 Democrats who have raised at least $400,000, which puts them in position to mount a serious challenge to any incumbent.

Here's another telling fact, Steve. Republicans identified by independent analysis as vulnerable, 14 of their Democrat opponents have raised at least a million dollars. At this point in the 2004 cycle not a single Democratic challenger had raised a million dollars. That's a big difference.

INSKEEP: Are we talking about House races or Senate races here?

WILLIAMS: Talking both, but mostly House races.

INSKEEP: Okay. So there are a lot of Democrats, relatively speaking, in a position to challenge at least in terms of finances.

Let's ask about something that could prove to be a distraction for Democrats: the Connecticut Senate race. After Joe Lieberman's defeat in the Democratic primary and his decision to run as an Independent, is that going to be a distraction for Democrats?

WILLIAMS: Oh, it is already a distraction. On Sunday, Senator John Kerry, the Democrat's 2004 presidential candidate, said that Lieberman is talking like Vice President Cheney in defending the Bush administration's determination to stay the course on the war in Iraq, helping the Republicans.

You know, even though Ned Lamont, Lieberman's Democratic challenger, won the August 8th Democratic primary, one recent poll shows him trailing Lieberman in the general election.

Lieberman's running as an independent. He's doing well with Connecticut's large percentage of registered independent voters. But he's also getting tremendous support from Connecticut Republicans, which is angering Democrats and the Democratic establishment in Washington.

And, of course, the Republicans, they are, in Connecticut, taking their cue from the Republican National Committee in Washington and the Bush White House, both of which are doing nothing to support the Republican candidate in the race: Alan Schlesinger.

INSKEEP: And this is a race where an anti-war candidate defeated Lieberman and it underlines the Democrats' difficulty in unifying on a position over the war.

WILLIAMS: Oh, absolutely. But it also I think highlights the idea that Iraq continues to dominate the national political discourse as we just heard in Ohio and Washington state.

INSKEEP: Juan, very briefly, Democrats are also looking to change the calendar for the primaries and caucuses for the next election in 2008, the presidential election. Why?

WILLIAMS: Well, they want to get more Hispanics and blacks into the mix early, as well as states in the West and southern parts of the country. It'll make for a very compressed campaign schedule. A lot of things will be decided early as a result.

The new calendar, Steve, calls for Iowa to hold its place as the starting line, but instead of having the New Hampshire primary as the second stop, they'll be another caucus held in Nevada. And then just a week after that, after New Hampshire, they'll be a primary also held in South Carolina.

So you're going to have to have a lot of money early and you're going to have to have a lot of votes early, otherwise you're going to be out of this Democratic presidential nominating season.

INSKEEP: Okay, thanks very much, Juan.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Steve.

INSKEEP: Analysis from NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams on this Monday morning.

You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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