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Handful of Races Eat Democrats’ Resources

Ted Fitzgerald/AP/Boston Herald
Democratic Rep. John Tierney, who is embroiled in his wife’s family’s legal troubles, has been outraised for the past three quarters.

The severity of the climb back to the majority facing House Democrats could be summed up in one fundraising report filed this week: veteran Rep. John Tierney’s.

Tierney, who is embroiled in his wife’s family’s legal troubles, has been outraised for the past three quarters. The Massachusetts Democrat’s latest fundraising report showed that he ended June with $693,000 in cash on hand, compared with the $802,000 his Republican opponent had in the bank.

Tierney’s situation is indicative of a broader problem for House Democrats, whose “Drive to 25” campaign is complicated by a handful of races that should be safe or are considered prime pickup opportunities.

Troubled incumbents and the potential for flawed general election candidates in these five or six contests will force the party to spend valuable resources needed elsewhere to net the 25 seats that would put Democrats back in power.

“It’s not helpful, and we wish that wasn’t the case,” a senior Democratic Hill staffer said.

At the top of the list are Tierney and Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.), two embattled incumbents in very Democratic states and in otherwise safe districts. Both face top-tier Republican recruits in November.

Cicilline was previously the mayor of Providence, and the city’s financial straits have dogged him since the beginning of his Congressional term.

Democrats remain confident they will keep both seats despite the incumbents’ vulnerabilities.

“Overwhelming Democratic districts vote for Democrats — especially in a presidential election year — and there’s nothing in these races that lets Republicans win districts that voted around 60 percent for President Obama,” a national Democratic operative said.

But holding the seats will come at a high price — TV ad time in Boston and Providence is very expensive.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC have reserved a combined $5.6 million in ad time in the Boston market. The market includes Tierney’s district but also covers two competitive races in New Hampshire.

“As Mitt Romney is finding out, any time you’re on the defensive, you’re losing ground,” Democratic fundraiser Michael Fraioli said. “When you lose ground, you spend money whether it’s radio or TV or in the mail or changing your schedule to shore up whatever the problem is.”

Both parties face races and nominees that become unexpected headaches each cycle. But with a lack of an obvious political wave this year, Democrats have to hold and win many more seats than Republicans do, with little room for error.

Democrats are quick to counter that the GOP has a bevy of weak candidates and incumbents, many of whom won in the 2010 wave with similar re-election obstacles. The Republican problems are legitimate and will cost money and time.

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