Traditionally, a large fundraising advantage was a strong indicator that an incumbent was safe. Being able to outspend your opponent on campaign ads and staff is clearly a big advantage. Strong fundraising is also a decent, all be it imperfect, indicator of a candidate’s (and the opponent’s) level of commitment to the campaign.

An analysis earlier this year by Paul Blumenthal at the Sunlight Foundation found that, even in wave elections, incumbents who raise 70 percent of the total campaign contributions in their race almost never lost. It was also determined that, even in 1994, only one-third of incumbents that raise between 60 to 70 percent of the money in their races ended up losing.

If this pattern holds up, Democrats should be in better shape than generic ballot polling or political prognosticators indicate. There are currently nine incumbent Democrats who are ranked as “toss-up” or “likely to lose” who have raised 70 percent or more of the money in their race, and 18 Democrats who have raised between 60 and 70 percent of the total contributions in their races.

70% or greater
Ann Kirkpatrick AZ-01
Gabrielle Giffords AZ-08
Allen Boyd FL-02
Alan Grayson FL-08
Suzanne Kosmas FL-24
Larry Kissell NC-08
Kathy Dahlkemper PA-03
Pat Murphy PA-08
Chris Carney PA-10
60%-70%
Harry Mitchell AZ-05
Jerry McNerney CA-11
Betsy Markey CO-04
Sanford Bishop GA-02
Jim Marshall GA-08
Bill Foster IL-14
Gary Peters MI-09
Heath Shuler NC-11
Ann McLane Kuster NH-02
Dina Titus NV-03
John Hall NY-19
Bill Owens NY-23
Paul Kanjorski PA-11
John Spratt SC-05
Lincoln Davis TN-04
Chet Edwards TX-17
Tom Perriello VA-05
Steve Kagen WI-08
Michael Oliverio WV-01

Raising 70 percent or more of the donations in a race is huge. For example, in 1994, only a 3.3 percent of incumbents who did this lost, and in 2006, it was only 0.8 percent. If previous patterns hold, most of those nine Democrats listed above should win, even though most political observers think almost all of them will lose.

Looking just at the predictive power of fundraising totals, it would appear Democrats are in better shape than most are currently projecting. Based on their financial disclosures, many of the “most endangered” Democrats should survive, thanks to large campaign war chests.

There are, however, two reasons this year that the traditional pattern might not hold. First, the massive flood of secret corporate spending on behalf of Republican candidates could completely wipe out Democrats’ fundraising advantage. Second, the highly unusual nature of this election. Both 2006 and 2008 were big “wave” elections for Democrats, and this November is expect to be a huge wave in the opposite direction. It is possible that the 2008 Democratic wave swept some Democrats into red districts that, no matter how much money they raised, could not be held in this coming GOP counter wave.