Bloomberg News

Democrats Have Financial Advantage in Contest to Hold Senate

October 21, 2011

Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Senate Democrats, in danger of losing control of the chamber next November, hold a cash advantage a year before the election as each of their most vulnerable incumbents banked at least $1 million and some have far more money on hand.

“At this stage of the fundraising process, to already be into seven figures is not to be dismissed lightly,” said Glenn Totten, a Democratic consultant who has worked on Senate campaigns. “All incumbents are going to have to explain to the public why they are part of the solution and haven’t been part of the problem. And that takes money.”

While the Democrats’ money edge is helpful, there is time for the Republicans to catch up financially, said Jennifer Duffy, Senate editor for the Cook Political Report, a Washington-based publication that rates congressional races.

In addition, outside groups are expected to spend millions of dollars on the most competitive races, cutting into an individual candidate’s financial advantage, she said.

American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, the two Republican- leaning independent groups organized with help from former White House aide Karl Rove, have said they plan to raise more than $240 million for the 2012 elections. Thus far, those groups have targeted the re-election of President Barack Obama, although in 2010 they took on big roles in Senate races.

Democrats have their own so-called super political action committee raising unlimited donations to help the party retain the Senate.

Most Competitive Races

“In the most competitive races, candidate fundraising doesn’t mean what it used to,” Duffy said.

Democrats hold a 53-47 majority, including two independents, and are defending 23 seats compared to 10 for the Republicans.

Nine Democratic and two Republican-held seats are considered competitive by two Washington-based publications rating congressional races, Cook and the Rothenberg Political Report. A 10th Democratic seat, held by retiring Senator Kent Conrad, is expected to flip to the Republicans, Cook and Rothenberg predict.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said some party donors may be waiting until after the nominee is chosen in the primary.

“A lot of people just want to know who the nominee will be and are not necessarily engaged in supporting one candidate or another in a contested primary,” he said. “I don’t think there will be any lack of financial wherewithal.”

Vulnerable Democrats

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida had the most money as of Sept. 30 among vulnerable Democratic incumbents, $7.5 million. He raised $9.1 million in this election cycle. His leading Republican challenger, former Senator George LeMieux, had $1 million in cash and raised $1.4 million.

Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, elected in 2006 with 49.6 percent of the vote, had $3.7 million to spend after raising $5.6 million through Sept. 30. McCaskill had more money in the bank than her two Republican challengers combined; Representative Todd Akin had $1.2 million and former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman had $561,950. Akin raised $1.3 million for his Senate race, while Steelman brought in $666,608 and lent her campaign $400,000.

Senator Jon Tester of Montana had $3.1 million in the bank while Republican challenger Dennis Rehberg had $1.8 million. Tester raised $5.1 million, compared with $2.7 million for Rehberg, a U.S. representative.

Nebraska and Ohio

In Nebraska, Senator Ben Nelson reported $3.1 million cash- on-hand, almost double the $1.6 million for state Attorney General Jon Bruning, his top Republican competitor. Nelson raised $4.7 million to $2.4 million for Bruning.

Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown reported $4.2 million to spend, compared with $3.3 million for his Republican rival, state Treasurer Josh Mandel. Brown took in $8.3 million for his campaign; Mandel raised $3.8 million.

Still, in a sign of the challenges Democratic incumbents face, both Nelson of Nebraska and Brown of Ohio were outraised in the third quarter. Mandel raised $1.5 million to Brown’s $1.3 million from July to September. Bruning raised $586,633 and Nelson took in $442,576.

Among vulnerable Republican incumbents, Scott Brown of Massachusetts amassed the largest re-election account, $10.5 million, and raised $8.3 million. Former White House aide and Harvard University professor Elizabeth Warren, who entered the Democratic primary in September, raised $3.2 million and had a bank balance of $3 million. A Democratic primary competitor, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, had $44,023 in the bank. He raised 227,543 for his campaign.

Berkley, Heller Race

Representative Shelley Berkley of Nevada, who is trying to unseat Republican Senator Dean Heller, had $3.2 million in the bank. Heller, appointed in April to succeed John Ensign, had $2.8 million. Heller raised $3.2 million and Berkley $3.1 million.

Democrats also held fundraising advantages where their incumbents are retiring.

Tim Kaine, the former Democratic National Committee chairman, is running in Virginia to succeed Senator Jim Webb. Kaine raised $3.6 million and had $2.5 million cash on hand. Former Republican Senator George Allen, trying to reclaim the seat he lost to Webb in 2006, brought in $3.5 million and had $1.8 million in the bank.

Representative Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat running in Wisconsin for the seat being vacated by retiring Herb Kohl, had $1.5 million to spend and raised $1.3 million. Former Republican Representative Mark Neumann had $282,169 in cash after raising $302,033 and borrowing $5,725. Former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson filed a statement of candidacy with the FEC on Oct. 3.

In New Mexico, Representative Martin Heinrich reported $1.1 million in the bank in his effort to succeed fellow Democrat Jeff Bingaman in the Senate. He raised $1.5 million. Former Representative Heather Wilson, a Republican who unsuccessfully sought the Senate seat in 2008, had $952,898 on hand. She brought in $1.3 million.

--Editors: Jeanne Cummings, Jim Rubin.

To contact the reporters on this story: Laura Litvan in Washington at; Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at

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