CBSN

Facing loss of majority, Senate Democrats spending heavily

JANESVILLE, Wis. - Locked in a tough battle to hang onto their majority the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is pulling out all the stops: they spent nearly $1 million a day in September helping embattled incumbents and promising candidates in the midterm election, according to a summary of their September finances.

The DSCC, which is the campaign arm for Senate Democrats, raised $16 million in September and had $14 million in cash to burn beginning in October. They began September with more than $25 million in the bank but spent $27 million during the month.

"As the campaign enters its final weeks, Democrats are in strong position to hold the majority," committee chief Guy Cecil said in a statement.

They managed to just edge out their GOP equivalent, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). They said last week that they raised $15.5 million in September but did not say how much cash they had at the ready.

The fundraising for both committees was at record level last month, underscoring how close the fight for Senate control has become and how much donors are willing to write checks. If Republicans can defend their current seats and flip six Democratic seats in their favor, they will become the majority party in the Senate for the first time since 2006.

The latest CBS News/New York Times Battleground Tracker estimates that Republicans will recapture the Senate with a slim margin of just 51 votes. But there are several Democrats hanging on to their seats, as well as some races where the Republican candidate is unexpectedly vulnerable.

Republicans may have a history of better voter turnout during midterm elections, but Democrats are the ones with the fundraising prowess these days. Since January 2013, the start of the current election cycle, Democrats have raised $127 million, compared to the Republicans' $98 million.

That $29 million advantage has given Senate Democrats the ability to hire staff in crucial races to knock on doors, call voters and help candidates campaign against Republicans. They also have some leeway to spend in races that were previously were considered off limits, such as the Republican-favored race in South Dakota, where Democrats are now spending $1 million on ads.

They have a higher burn rate than Republicans, though: Democrats are spending roughly 90 cents of every dollar they raise, according to figures between January 2013 and the end of this September. Using their most recent figures from August, Republicans have been spending about 80 cents of every dollar raised since January 2013.

Neither committee plans to carry much - if any - cash into 2015. That means the two parties' major Senate committees will spend at least a quarter billion dollars on just a handful of races.