Analyzing candidates’ fundraising reports is one barometer of the state of a Senate contest months before the actual election.
One candidate far exceeding the fundraising total of his or her opponent has a significant leg up on the competition. Candidates lagging far behind at this early stage of the competition – or have not even decided whether to run – have a lot of catching up to do.
Where the fundraising totals are close between candidates, it is likely that the Senate contest will be very competitive.
The John Isaacs rule of thumb is that candidates can overcome a 2 to 1 spending disadvantage if they have resources for a significant television advertising buy – particularly if the party committees help out. Larger spending advantages are harder to overcome.
These assumptions are used to examine the fundraising reports filed by Senate candidates on July 15, detailing fundraising for the previous three months. The two key figures examined here are how much was raised in the last quarter and how much the campaigns have in cash on-hand.
Take the Arkansas Senate contest. Republicans assert that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) is vulnerable. However, Lincoln is sitting on $3.2 million cash on-hand and has no serious Republican opponent.
Similarly, there are polls in Nevada indicating that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is vulnerable. Yet Reid is a fundraising machine with over $7.3 million in the bank and no major challenger as of yet.
In Colorado, appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) has done a good job of fundraising and has $2.2 million in the bank. Two Republican opponents have less than $315,000 in their treasuries.
The shoe is on the other foot in North Carolina, where polls show that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is vulnerable, but with $2.5 million in the bank and no major opponent.
In all these campaigns, it is getting late to find serious candidates who can raise lots of money – although millionaire self-funders are in a class by themselves. Moreover, the national political committees and independent expenditures from outside groups can do much to make up deficits, but the candidates will have a lot of catching up to do.
Some of the closest contests at this time:
Connecticut: Former U.S.Representatives Rob Simmons (R-CT) only got into the contest a few months ago, but last quarter he raised $753,000 compared to $1.2 million for incumbent Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). While Dodd has a significant advantage in cash on-hand, that lead is likely to shrink with polls showing Dodd trailing Simmons. However, the Republican challenger will first have to win a three-way primary.
Delaware: This is a rare contest with no high level candidates in the race. Republicans are waiting to see if U.S. Representative Mike Castle (R-DE) runs for Senate and Democrats are waiting for Attorney General and VEEP son Beau Biden (D-DE) to return from a posting in Iraq to run.
Florida: Democrats have a serious candidate for this open seat in U.S. Representative Kendrick Meek (D-FL), who has a formidable $2.4 million in the bank. But Governor Charles Crist (R-FL) blew away his Republican competition by raising $4.3 million in the last quarter and may run away with both the primary and general election contest.
Illinois: Republican U.S. Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL) only recently got into the contest but he already has $1.0 million in his House account that can be transferred to the Senate contest. Leading Democratic contender State treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D-IL) had $1.7 million in his campaign treasury and is likely to face primary opposition.
Kansas: Republicans have two serious candidates and Democrats zero for this open seat. Two GOP House members, Reps. Todd Tiahrt (R-KA) and Jerry Moran (R-KA) are running against each other in a primary. Moran has $3.1 million in his account while Tiahrt has $1.4 million.
Kentucky: At the end of July, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) announced his decision to retire. He had only about $600,000 in his campaign treasury, slightly more than another potential Republican candidate, Secretary of State Trey Grayson (R-KY) and more than Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo (D-KY), who ran in 2004. On the other hand, Attorney General Jack Conway (D-KY) had $1.2 million in his campaign treasury at the end of June.
Louisiana: Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) has been considered to be in trouble since his involvement in a prostitution scandal, but did not have major opposition until U.S. Representative Charlie Melancon (D-LA) indicated he would run. Vitter had $3.2 million in the bank at the end of June, compared to $1.2 million in Melancon’s House race account that can be transferred to the Senate contest. Melancon has some catching up to do, but this will be a serious contest.
Missouri: Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D-MO) is running against U.S. Representative Roy Blunt (R-MO) for this open seat and they are very competitive financially and in the polls. Blunt has $1.8 million in his account to Carnahan’s $1.4 million.
New Hampshire: While the fundraising numbers don’t show it, this state is likely to have a close race. U.S. Representative Paul Hodes (D-NH) will be the Democratic nominee and now faces a potentially formidable opponent, former New Hampshire attorney general Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). The Democrat has $860,000 in his campaign treasury while Ayotte has not formally entered the contest and faces likely primary opposition. Polls show a Hodes vs. Ayotte matchup to be close.
New York: Appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) from upstate New York may not have a serious Republican opponent, but she is expected to get a serious primary challenge from U.S. Represtative Carolyn Maloney (D). At the end of June, Gillibrand had $3.2 million in the bank compared to $1.7 million for Maloney.
Ohio: In the Buckeye state, ex-U.S. Rep. and ex-Office of Management and Budget director Rob Portman (R-OH) has a significant fundraising advantage with $4.3 million in his campaign treasury. Democrats face a primary between Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D-OH) and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D-OH). Fisher had $1.5 million and Brunner only $165,000. Polls show a close contest.
Pennsylvania: Incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R turned D-PA), following his surprising party switch in April 2009, is way ahead in the polls against U.S. Representative Joseph Sestak (D-PA) but close with likely Republican nominee, former Conservative Club for Growth president Pat Toomey (R-PA). Specter is a terrific fundraiser, but so too is Sestak. Specter had $7.5 million in his campaign treasury at the end of June compared to $4.3 million for Sestak. Toomey trailed with $1.1 million.
State Name – Party (Bold=incumbent) 2nd Quarter Total Receipts Cash On-Hand
Alabama Shelby – R 1,384,450 14,805,379
Alaska Murkowski – R 382,202 1,060,738
Arizona McCain – R 1,697,293 5,414,388
Arkansas Lincoln – D 1,270,667 3,201,745
California Boxer – D 1,471,379 5,408,344
Colorado Bennett – D 1,219,753 2,233,738
Buck – D 332,656 314,288
Frazier – R 143,011 127,247
Connecticut Dodd – D 1,218,007 1,842,324
Simmons – R 753,019 558,132
Caligiuri – R 126,227 94,717
Foley – R **N/A** 546,973
Delaware Castle – R 125,261 861,201
Florida Crist – R 4,399,948 4,179,144
Rubio – R 349,717 349,184
Meek – D 1,167,737 2,390,709
Georgia Isakson – R 823,659 3,019,043
Hawaii Inouye – D **N/A** 1,993,497
Idaho Crapo – R 544,607 2,322,071
Illinois Giannoulias – D 676,212 1,654,017
Kirk – R 590,328 1,019,647
Indiana Bayh – D 795,918 12,159,526
Iowa Grassley – R 904,077 3,839,600
Kansas Moran – R 391,839 3,136,872
Tiahrt – R 325,386 1,413,151
Kentucky Grayson – R 603,165 572,104
Conway – D 1,328,917 1,232,018
Mongiardo – D 303,224 485,886
Louisiana Vitter – R 1,235,754 3,223,018
Melancon – D 404,137 1,228,042
Maryland Mikulski – D 350,929 1,520,224
Missouri Blunt – R 1,443,185 1,767,742
Carnahan – D 1,034,557 1,376,102
Nevada Reid – D 3,259,927 7,337,383
New Hampshire Hodes – D 781,246 860,409
New York (A) Schumer – D **N/A** 14,899,926
New York (Special) Gillibrand – D 1,541,807 3,234,105
Maloney – D 577,741 1,661,775
North Carolina Burr – R 1,160,092 2,507,020
North Dakota Dorgan – D 940,276 3,530,643
Ohio Portman – R 1,725,391 4,345,260
Fisher – D 912,235 1,479,893
Brunner – D ~228,000 165,451
Oklahoma Coburn – R 594,099 623,451
Oregon Wyden – D 1,317,624 2,341,319
Pennsylvania Specter – D 1,735,693 7,564,781
Sestak – D 1,050,208 4,268,011
Toomey – R 1,639,190 1,113,901
South Carolina DeMint – R 571,166 2,600,487
South Dakota Thune – R 1,130,652 5,105,240
Utah Bennett – R 761,370 933,423
Shurtleff – R **N/A** 103,920
Vermont Leahy – D 705,757 2,245,754
Washington Murray – D 1,557,016 4,233,006
Wisconsin Feingold – D 719,429 2,885,833