updated 10/24/2006 4:47:50 PM ET 2006-10-24T20:47:50

Republican campaign committees held a slight edge on Democrats heading into the last weeks of the election battle for Congress, with both parties flush with cash and ready for a free-spending finish.

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The Republican National Committee and the Republican Senate and House campaign committees reported Thursday a combined $77 million in the bank at the end of September, compared with $67 million for their Democratic counterparts.

Democrats, enjoying clear momentum in public opinion polls, gained ground in the money chase during September. The three Democratic committees raised $33 million during the month, compared with $30 million for Republicans.

Heavy spending to come
Both parties are spending heavily on paid advertisements and get-out-the-vote operations on behalf of candidates in the Nov. 7 elections. Democrats must gain 15 House seats and six Senate seats to seize control of each chamber from President Bush's Republicans. 2006 key races

The Republican cash advantage was attributable to the fund-raising prowess of the RNC, which had $26 million in the bank, compared with the Democratic National Committee's $8 million.

The DNC also opened a $10 million line of bank credit for the final push, with half pledged to the Senate committee and half pledged to voter turnout operations in targeted House seats.

Election interest translates to donations
The Democratic Senate committee had $23 million in the bank, versus $12 million for the Republican Senate committee, while the Republican House committee edged its Democratic rival in cash on hand, $39 million to $36 million.

Before Friday's deadline for filing September financial reports with the Federal Election Commission, both parties said the quick pace of fund raising in September showed high interest in the election.

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman said, "This is clear evidence that Republicans all across the country are committed to maintaining our majorities in Congress and electing Republicans this November."

Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, head of the Democratic House campaign committee, said the fund-raising totals reflected the public's concerns "about the direction of our country and their willingness to invest in the change that we need."

The spending by the campaign committees augments spending by individual candidates across the country in the congressional elections. All 435 House seats and 33 of 100 Senate seats are up for election on Nov. 7.

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