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What does early Perriello money lead mean for November?

You look at the money race in the Fifth District, and it’s no race at all, really. Democrat Tom Perriello has $1.7 million in cash on hand while his Republican opponent, Robert Hurt, has $212,000, according to reports filed by the respective campaigns with the Federal Election Commission.

Those numbers are bound to change between now and November, sure, but it’s not hard to see Hurt, a state senator from Danville, facing down a huge disadvantage in resources for the duration.

The idea that Democrats are floating around now is interesting, if nothing else – that maybe national Republicans who have been talking up the race in the Fifth as one of their targeted races in the 2010 midterms will be inclined to look elsewhere with the Hurt campaign sputtering out of the gate.

“With all the bluster and all the promises national Republicans have made, they’re now faced with some tough decisions about which of these candidates can’t cut it and have to be dropped. Who will be the first one they abandon to the sidelines?” asks Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

A press release sent out by the DCCC last week raises the spectre of that being Hurt, who won the GOP nomination in a grueling six-candidate June primary. University of Virginia Center for Politics analyst Isaac Wood isn’t buying the notion being advanced by Dems, though.

“Republicans have this race at the top of their target list. Regardless of what the money numbers are right now, they know that Robert Hurt is a strong candidate, and that if they give him the resources to be competitive, this race will be close,” Wood said.

We can expect to see Hurt as the object of the affections of national Republicans in the fundraising season in the summer and the PR season in the fall, according to Wood.

Perriello, too, will be a focal point for Democrats as the party looks to maintain its majority in the House. His money advantage is noteworthy now, but it won’t mean anything if it doesn’t translate into votes on Election Day, Wood said.

“The real number that counts is the one the State Board of Elections reports on Election Night,” Wood said. “The way you turn the money into votes is really the key, and Tom Perriello has shown that he can run some really strong ads, which obviously cost money. It’s also important that you have the staff and volunteers on the ground, and he started pretty early on that as well.”

Republicans maybe have more to lose. The Perriello upset over Republican Virgil Goode in 2008 flipped the Fifth from the red column to the blue, but even with Perriello as the incumbent with a significant fundraising advantage, many pundits view the race as the GOP’s to lose.

“Republicans really have no choice here. They really have to concentrate on this race, no matter what they’re hearing on the ground here. This is one of the seats that they need if they want to regain the majority in the House of Representatives following this 2010 midterm,” Wood said.

“They know that they need 39 seats, and they know that if they don’t pick up this seat here in Virginia’s Fifth District, then that means it’s another seat in much, much stronger Democratic territory that they’re going to need to switch. All roads to a Republican majority do run through Virginia’s Fifth District,” Wood said.

Story by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at