The Democratic committee that handles races for the U.S. Senate holds more than a 2-1 financial advantage over its GOP counterpart at the start of this midterm election year.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has $25 million in the bank and raised $44 million in 2005. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has $10.5 million in the bank after raising $35.5 million last year. Neither committee reported any outstanding debt.

Democrats said it's the first time in their memory they have had such an edge over the GOP in cash on hand.

"Americans don't like what they're seeing in Washington and know that Democrats are the party of change," said Phil Singer, a DSCC spokesman.

The stakes for the two parties are high in the Senate contests. The GOP now holds a 55-44 advantage in the chamber, with one Democratic-leaning independent. Both Democrats and Republicans say about a dozen seats may be closely contested this year, including open seats and those that one party hopes to wrest from the other.

"We're very comfortable where we are financially," said NRSC spokesman Brian Nick, "and we'll have the necessary resources to allocate during the campaign. We have expanded our donor base by hundreds of thousands and that should pay off during the year."