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Dems rake in cash on GOP's shutdown antics

The numbers are in and the shutdown was a fundraising bonanza--for Democrats.
Harry Reid
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) arrives at the U.S. Capitol as Congress remains gridlocked over legislation to continue funding the federal government September 30, 2013 in Washington, DC.

The numbers are in, and it looks like the Republican decision to force a government shutdown over Obamacare was a fundraising bonanza--for Democrats. 

Amid polls showing anger over the three-week shutdown and plummeting support for the GOP, Democrats have seized on the Republican antics as a tool to raise money. And it’s worked. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) outraised its Republican counterpart last month for the first time this year. And the campaign arm for House Democrats far outpaced what House Republicans managed.

“The GOP’s manufactured crisis of the last few weeks put the Republicans’ policy and governing philosophy front and center” Michael Czin, a spokesman for the DNC, told MSNBC. "And Americans responded."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) took in $8.4 million last month—$3 million more than raised by the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC). And the DNC raised $7.4 million in September. That wasn’t much more than the RNC’s $7.1 million, but it reversed a 2013 trend that has favored Republicans: The RNC has raised $60.9 million since the start of the year, compared to $47 million for the DNC.

A deal last week, after a humiliating Republican climb-down, reopened the government through January and averted a debt default through February. But outrage over the shutdown, as well as the failed Republican bid to use the debt ceiling to extract policy concessions, has been at the center of Democrats’ fundraising strategy. In online appeals to supporters sent last month, the DCCC blasted the GOP’s “reckless shutdown” and its “extortion tactics.”

And in a sign of the issue’s ongoing political power, the DNC launched hard-hitting robocalls Monday targeting Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul—all seen as potential 2016 presidential contenders—over the shutdown and the debt ceiling fiasco.

For Democrats, focusing their fundraising pitch on Republican brinksmanship and extremism was a no-brainer. From the start, polls have shown Americans blaming the shutdown on Republicans more than Democrats or the White House. More important, Republicans’ broader approval ratings have dropped sharply since the standoff—prompting talk that Democrats might not only hold onto the Senate, but win the House, too. And a CNN poll released Monday found 54% saying it’s a bad thing that Republicans control the House—the first time a majority have said that since the GOP won the House in 2010.

At the same time, the key Republican architect of the shutdown strategy has also seen a fundraising boost. The Ted Cruz Victory Committee, a PAC supporting the junior Texas senator, took in nearly $800,000 from July to September. That’s nearly double its haul from the prior three months. Cruz recently celebrated the fact that over 2 million people signed an anti-Obamacare petition run by another conservative PAC, creating a powerful list for future fundraising. Despite admissions by some high-ranking Republicans that the party erred by forcing the shutdown and debt ceiling fiascoes, Cruz has stood by the strategy and blasted his Senate GOP colleagues for not joining him en masse.

The GOP’s Tea Party wing may need all the financial support it can get next year. Since last week, powerful interests from the party’s establishment side—including the Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and other business groups—have signaled that they may back primary challengers to Republican lawmakers who spearheaded the shutdown strategy. 

Correction: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $8.4 million in September, outraising the National Republican Campaign Committee by $3 million. This post originally reported, incorrectly, that the DCCC raised $6.6 million and doubled the amount raised by the NRCC.