The Center for Responsive Politics has highlighted six districts where challengers outraised incumbents in 2009, but a closer look indicates the incumbents still have the upper hand.
In Maryland's 6th District, Republican incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett raised $88,736, while Democratic challenger Casey Clark raised $145,328. Yet the significance of this disparity has to be weighed against the solidly Republican nature of the district.
"Bartlett is in such a safe district he doesn't have to raise money," said David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Report.
And despite the 2009 numbers, Bartlett still has $353,891 on hand, while Clark has $74,993.
In California's 3rd District, 8-term Rep. Dan Lungren (R) raised $732,869, just shy of his Democratic challenger, Ami Bera, who raised $871,051. Bera, a well-connected physician, has been able to raise money in the medical industry, but Wasserman views these numbers as somewhat misleading as well, given Lungren's demonstrated ability to survive tough challenges -- as he did in the much more hostile climates of 2006 and 2008.
The same dynamic may prevail in Washington's 8th District, where Democratic challenger Suzan DelBene outraised Rep. Dave Reichert (R) $1,047,871 to $985,663 but will still face an uphill battle. In previous cycles, Reichert was criticized for being "Bush's lackey" but won re-election anyway. Bush's absence this cycle could be bad news for DelBene.
The only Republican challenger on CPR's list is Randy Altschuler in New York's 1st District. He raised $1,047,549 over Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop's $949,295.
"We see challengers outraise incumbents every year," said Wasserman. "I don't think it's meaningful if it doesn't say anything about the climate. Six races are not enough to show a groundswell." And with a national environment favoring Republicans, five Democratic challengers bringing in more than their Republican incumbents won't be enough to turn the tide.