For Democrats, reasons for hope?

As November approaches, the party's challengers are better funded than usual, and they're not the ones stuck with the president's stem cell veto.

Published July 21, 2006 1:32PM (EDT)

November is still a long way away, but:

Congressional Quarterly says that Democratic challengers for the House of Representatives are "thriving" in the race that matters most right now: the one for cash. "While the Democrats still are far from nailing down the net gain of at least 15 seats that they need to end the Republicans' dozen years of House control, they at least are sending many more candidates into the key races in competitive financial shape," CQ says. CQ says Democrats "dominate" the list of best-financed challengers. One success story, at least so far: Joe Sestak, the retired Navy vice admiral who is gunning for Rep. Curt Weldon's seat in Pennsylvania. As a result of Sestak's fundraising accomplishments, CQ has just moved the race from "Republican favored" to "leans Republican," which is to say that "Weldon still has an edge, but that the race is highly competitive, and an upset by Sestak is at least a plausible possibility."

All told now, CQ says that 36 races are in its most-competitive categories -- "no clear favorite," "leans Republican" and "leans Democrat" -- and that 26 of them are currently held by Republicans.

The Associated Press has more encouraging money news for Democrats. While the RNC has way more money on hand than the DNC does, the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees are, for the moment, better funded than their GOP counterparts.

The Wall Street Journal, echoing reports elsewhere, wonders this morning whether the president's veto of stem cell legislation may be the "Republicans' undoing." "While Mr. Bush's position cheers religious and social conservatives in the Republicans' base, nationwide it has alienated many moderates and has some questioning their fealty to a party increasingly defined by its cultural conservatism in emphasizing its opposition to issues such as gay marriage and abortion," the Journal says. The Journal notes that "the suburbs where many Republicans live have become more diverse and politically independent, marked by a mix of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism that is testing Republicans' dominance there" -- a development that has "Democrats hoping to capture some of their foes' strongholds by picking up disgruntled Republican moderates as well as independents."

The Washington Post says that Ohio Rep. Bob Ney, described as the corrupt "Representative No. 1" in court filings in the Jack Abramoff case, has been telling colleagues that he'll be saved by the bell -- or, more accurately, a Justice Department rule against indicting members of Congress within 90 days of an election. The catch? The Post finds a Justice Department official who says there is no such rule.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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