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Democrats say their mountain of cash looks like a wave

At least 45 Democratic challengers in 34 districts raised more money last quarter than congressmember they’re hoping to defeat in November.

WASHINGTON — At least 45 Democratic challengers in 34 districts raised more money last quarter than the Republican member of Congress they're hoping to defeat in November, according to new campaign finance reports.

And that figure, which Democrats compiled and were touting to show their strength, does not include the dozens of places where GOP incumbents have retired, leaving behind open seats that are generally considered more vulnerable.

Democratic candidates across the country are being buoyed by a flood of cash as the party aims to win the 24 seats from Republicans they need to retake the House of Representatives in this year's midterm elections.

The first test will come in a March special election in western Pennsylvania, where Democrat Conor Lamb reported raising more than $557,000 to GOP State Rep. Rick Saccone's roughly $215,000 haul.

Fundraising is no guarantee of success, and most incumbents still have larger cash stockpiles thanks to years of fundraising. But the new Federal Election Commission reports from the fourth quarter of last year are another sign of the momentum Democrats hope will crest into a wave this fall.

The list of places Democratic challengers out-raised GOP incumbents includes both perennial battlegrounds and districts the party have typically not contested.

In New Jersey, a key theater in the war for the House, every single Republican member of Congress was out-raised by at least one Democratic challenger. Two Democrats beat Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who is not even on House Democrats’ expansive 91-district target list.

The list includes suburban areas where affluent, educated voters are repelled by President Donald Trump.

In an often-contested district in the Denver suburbs, Democrat Jason Crow edged Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., while in Orange County, California, Katie Porter out-raised Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif., even though Porter is embroiled in a seven-way Democratic primary.

The list also includes districts that voted for Obama but then swung towards Trump in the Midwest, like one in Northeast Iowa where Democrat Abby Finkenhauer doubled GOP Rep. Rod Blum's haul last quarter, over $300,000 to about $147,000.

And it includes places that tilt heavily Republican, at least on paper, like a district stretching South from Salt Lake City, Utah, where Democrat Ben McAdams out-raised Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, who is well-known nationally as one of only two black Republicans in Congress.

"Democratic candidates across the country are out-hustling and out-organizing vulnerable Republican incumbents, many of whom have not faced a competitive challenge in a very long time and are struggling to find those old campaign muscles," said Tyler Law, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Still, Republicans have their own advantages in the money race. The Republican National Committee raised twice as much money as the Democratic National Committee last year, and an array of well-funded outside conservative groups are planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars this cycle.

And of course, money only goes so far. Democrat Jon Ossoff raised more money than any congressional candidate in history in a Georgia special election last year, but still ended up losing the high-profile race.

In some cases, wealthy challengers supplied much of their own haul. And in others, Democrats will end up burning through major cash reserves in competitive primaries before they even get a chance to take on the Republican.

"Democrats have now come to the realization that winning a primary will be an expensive endeavor and we look forward to facing battered, cash-strapped candidates who have spent months telling voters how liberal they are," said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Jesse Hunt.