Senate Democrats look to next elections
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Facing increasingly grim prospects in the Senate this fall, Democrats are looking to 2016 as an opportunity to win back some of the seats they could lose this election cycle. 

But a look at early fundraising by likely Democratic targets reveals most vulnerable Republicans are already girding for a fight.

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The GOP insists they’ll hold whatever advantage they earn in 2014, but it’s indisputable that 2016 offers better prospects for Democrats simply because of the math. Republicans will be defending more seats, 24 to Democrats’ nine, a number on more favorable turf for Democrats.

Democratic pollster Jefrey Pollock said, while he’s confident Democrats won’t lose the Senate in 2014, the map might pan out in their favor next cycle.

“2016 offers a lot of opportunities because, in many of these states, we’re playing on friendly Democratic territory, particularly during presidential races,” he said. 

Pollock highlighted Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin as top states where Democrats might have the advantage in 2016.

Add that to potential Republican retirements in Indiana, Arizona and Iowa, as well as the likelihood that a handful of incumbents in potentially competitive states might face primary challengers, and at least two senators who might split their time and resources running for president, and the 2016 map looks much sunnier for Democrats than 2014.

An analysis by The Hill of cash-on-hand numbers at the end of 2013 for senators up in 2016 indicates many of vulnerable senators have, in fact, begun to build up financial firewalls for their reelection fights — but a few are falling behind.

Of the five senators most likely to be targeted by Democrats in 2016, three have more than $1 million cash on hand.

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteOPINION: Democracy will send ISIS to the same grave as communism Kelly Ayotte joins defense contractor's board of directors Week ahead: Comey firing dominates Washington MORE (R-N.H.) has $1.28 million cash on hand, while Sens. Rob PortmanRob PortmanMedicaid group's ad buy urges opposition to cuts GOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural vote GOP super-PAC promises big spending in 2018 MORE (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) each have more than $4 million. Portman, fundraising vice-chairman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has raised the most of any Republican in his freshman class.

Two others — Sens. Mark KirkMark KirkGOP senator defends funding Planned Parenthood Why Qatar Is a problem for Washington Taking the easy layup: Why brain cancer patients depend on it MORE (Ill.) and Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonSenate GOP delays ObamaCare repeal vote past recess Club for Growth opposes Senate ObamaCare repeal Cornyn: Key vote to advance health bill likely Wednesday MORE (Wis.) — have yet to pick up the fundraising pace.

Kirk is arguably the most vulnerable of the five, running in a reliably blue state during a presidential year with former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonCNN to air 'The Russian Connection: Inside the Attack on Democracy' Tuesday night Did Democrats really have Georgia on their minds? Changing America: America’s growing education divide MORE potentially atop the ticket. He’s only stocked away about $740,000, but has been recovering from a stroke in 2012. 

A Kirk aide told The Hill that the senator is “very much aware that he’s the only Republican that has been elected statewide [to federal office] in Illinois” since 1998. The aide indicated, however, his fundraising pace should pick up soon, as he’s “very much gearing up” for 2016. 

Johnson has the least of all the vulnerable senators in the bank, only $370,000 cash on hand. But he invested nearly $9 million into his own campaign in 2010, more than half of the more than $15 million his campaign spent on that fight. According to campaign aide Mark Stevens, he could easily self-fund again.

Stevens pointed to Johnson’s 2010 assurance “he would make sure that his campaign spent what was necessary to be able to communicate with the voters of the state” as a potential predictor of what Johnson might spend next cycle.

Democrats are also gleeful at the prospect of Republican retirements in potentially competitive states like Iowa, a swing state that went blue the last two cycles, and Arizona, which Democrats think could turn purple due to its growing Hispanic population.

Arizona Sen. John McCainJohn McCainChanging America: America’s growing education divide Congress needs to support the COINS Act GOP’s message on ObamaCare is us versus them MORE, who would be 80 in 2016, has also hinted at retirement. He has $1.18 million cash on hand.

If McCain does run, he’s likely to face both a primary and a credible Democratic opponent. An aide said he’s already raising money for 2016, with his first reelection fundraiser scheduled for next month. The prospect of a primary challenger is weighing heavily on his mind.

“I think he feels like he starts off in a good position, but you’ve seen primary challenges; you’ve seen other folks that get complacent — senior members in recent years that have gotten complacent — and that’s the last thing he’s going to do,” the McCain aide said.

If the political tide in 2016 turns significantly in favor of Democrats, the party believes it could even put some typically red or purple states on the map. At the top of that list are North Carolina, where Sen. Richard BurrRichard BurrAn unlikely home in DC Senate intel panel to hold hearing on Russian meddling in Europe The Hill's Whip List: GOP undecided, 'no' votes pile up on ObamaCare repeal bill MORE has just over $900,000 cash on hand, and Alaska, where Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiEPA head faces skeptical senators on budget cuts Cruz, McConnell huddle with healthcare vote looming The Memo: Trump seeks to put his stamp on nation MORE could also face a primary challenge and has $640,000 in the bank. 

Still, the prospects for those races in 2016 depend in large part on the party’s success in those states this cycle. Sen. Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE of North Carolina and Mark BegichMark BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE of Alaska are both top GOP targets, and their losses could considerably cool any Democratic excitement in those states. Those ongoing races could be another reason Murkowski and Burr haven’t kicked their fundraising into gear.

That’s also why Sen. John BoozmanJohn BoozmanAn unlikely home in DC Lobbying World The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE of Arkansas has only $84,000 in his war chest, his chief of staff Helen Tolar told The Hill, and he is running in 2016.  Democratic Sen. Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE is a top GOP target, and Boozman has been working to support GOP candidates in the state. 

“At this point, our efforts are focused on 2014 and what we’ve got to do to win,” she said. “When it comes time to focus on us, we’ll focus on us.”

But his challenge might be the steepest of the other deep-red state Republicans in 2016. The Clintons remain popular in Arkansas from the former president’s time as governor, and with Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket, the race is likely to be extremely competitive if Democrats find a solid candidate.

Tolar said that possibility is on their radar, admitting that “the Clinton brand is a known and well-liked commodity in the state of Arkansas.” 

Though Democrats have an easier map in 2016, Republicans still plan to go on offense on a handful of races, and most Democratic incumbents will have to pick up their fundraising pace as well. All but four up for reelection in 2016 have less than a million cash on hand. 

And while the party’s likely top two GOP targets, Sens. Michael BennetMichael BennetDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Trump welcomes Gorsuch on first Supreme Court visit Why higher education is in need of regulatory relief MORE (Colo.) and Harry ReidHarry ReidDems face identity crisis Heller under siege, even before healthcare Charles Koch thanks Harry Reid for helping his book sales MORE (Nev.), have $1 and $1.5 million cash on hand, respectively, that’s nowhere close to the amount they’ll need to defend their seats. Colorado, while traditionally blue, remains a swing state, and Republicans could spend tens of millions trying to take down Reid.

—This piece was updated to correct the year Illinois last elected a Republican in a statewide federal race. 


 Senate Candidate Cash-On-Hand Through End of 2013

Republicans: 

Richard Shelby (Ala.) $17,848,174

Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) $640,015

John McCain (Ariz.) $1,186,686

John Boozman (Ark.) $84,074

Marco RubioMarco RubioSenate GOP delays ObamaCare repeal vote past recess Why liberals should support Trump — not Obama — on Cuba policy The Memo: Trump seeks to put his stamp on nation MORE  (Fla.) $2,301,084

Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonThe Hill's Whip List: GOP undecided, 'no' votes pile up on ObamaCare repeal bill Georgia special election runoff: live coverage House approves VA bill, sending it to Trump MORE (Ga.) $2,081,215

Mike CrapoMike CrapoOvernight Regulation: Senate Banking panel huddles with regulators on bank relief | FCC proposes 2M fine on robocaller | Yellowstone grizzly loses endangered protection Overnight Finance: Big US banks pass Fed stress tests | Senate bill repeals most ObamaCare taxes | Senate expected to pass Russian sanctions bill for second time All big US banks pass Dodd-Frank stress tests MORE (Idaho) $3,264,244

Mark Kirk  (Ill.) $739,036

Dan CoatsDan CoatsThe Memo: GOP pushes Trump to curb Mueller attacks Merkley: Trump 'absolutely' tried to intimidate Comey Coats: Trump seemed obsessed with Russia probe MORE (Ind.) $506,797

Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate Dems plan floor protest ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote It's time for Republicans to play offense while Democrats are weak A bipartisan consensus against 'big pharma' is growing in Congress MORE (Iowa) $1,601,439

Jerry MoranJerry MoranThe Hill's Whip List: GOP undecided, 'no' votes pile up on ObamaCare repeal bill Proposal to privatize air traffic control struggles to win over critics Senate panel to reject Trump’s air traffic control plan in aviation bill MORE (Kan.) $620,625

Rand PaulRand PaulRand Paul: Trump 'open to making bill better' Senate GOP delays ObamaCare repeal vote past recess Club for Growth opposes Senate ObamaCare repeal MORE (Ky.) $1,715,429

David VitterDavid VitterOvernight Energy: Trump set to propose sharp cuts to EPA, energy spending Former La. official tapped as lead offshore drilling regulator Former senator who crafted chemicals law to lobby for chemicals industry MORE (La.) $1,098,653

Roy BluntRoy BluntOvernight Regulation: Senate Banking panel huddles with regulators on bank relief | FCC proposes 2M fine on robocaller | Yellowstone grizzly loses endangered protection Overnight Finance: Big US banks pass Fed stress tests | Senate bill repeals most ObamaCare taxes | Senate expected to pass Russian sanctions bill for second time GOP senator: 'No reason' to try to work with Dems on healthcare MORE (Mo.) $734,264

Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) $1,286,990

Richard Burr (N.C.) $910,118

John HoevenJohn HoevenThe Hill's Whip List: GOP undecided, 'no' votes pile up on ObamaCare repeal bill GOP considers keeping ObamaCare taxes Senators want governors involved in health talks MORE (N.D.) $688,747

Rob Portman (Ohio) $4,457,699

Pat Toomey (Pa.) $4,045,182

John ThuneJohn ThuneSenate GOP delays ObamaCare repeal vote past recess GOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural vote Four GOP senators will vote against taking up healthcare bill without changes MORE (S.D.) $9,065,373

Mike LeeMike LeeSenate GOP delays ObamaCare repeal vote past recess Club for Growth opposes Senate ObamaCare repeal Cornyn: Key vote to advance health bill likely Wednesday MORE (Utah) $229,777

Ron Johnson (Wis.) $369,888

Democrats:

Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTime is now to address infrastructure needs Tom Steyer testing waters for Calif. gubernatorial bid Another day, another dollar for retirement advice rip-offs MORE (Calif.) $293,305

Michael Bennet (Colo.) $1,003,067

Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalOnly Congress can enable drone technology to reach its full potential Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Dems urge Sessions to reject AT&T-Time Warner merger MORE (Conn.) $303,439

Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiBipartisan friendship is a civil solution to political dysfunction Dems press for paycheck fairness bill on Equal Pay Day After 30 years celebrating women’s history, have we made enough progress? MORE (Md.) $985,021

Harry Reid (Nev.) $1,528,717

Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSenate Dems step up protests ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Senate Dems plan floor protest ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Dem senator: Don't bet against McConnell on ObamaCare repeal MORE (N.Y.) $11,433,001

Ron WydenRon WydenOvernight Tech: Black lawmakers press Uber on diversity | Google faces record EU fine | Snap taps new lobbyist | New details on FCC cyberattack FCC chairman reveals new details about cyberattack following John Oliver segment Election hacking fears turn heat on Homeland Security MORE (Ore.) $776,729

Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyEPA head faces skeptical senators on budget cuts A bipartisan consensus against 'big pharma' is growing in Congress Going national with automatic voter registration MORE (Vt.) $1,492,246

Patty MurrayPatty MurrayDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Senators grill Perry on Yucca nuclear storage plans MORE (Wash.) $747,504