Five fundraising numbers to watch

Several congressional candidates are aiming to prove their readiness for 2014 by posting strong numbers in the fundraising quarter that ends on New Year's Eve.

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The fourth quarter is a hard time to fundraise due to the difficulty of reaching donors around the holidays. That makes a big haul even more impressive, especially for candidates who need a strong number to become competitive.

 Here are five candidates whose fundraising tallies will say a lot about the state of their campaigns.
 
Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R)
 
McDaniel announced in mid-October that he would challenge Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), a powerful appropriator who’s spent more than three decades in the Senate.

The state senator’s fundraising prowess has yet to be tested, so his numbers will provide a major clue as to how much of trouble Cochran is in.
 
McDaniel appears to have the best shot of any Tea Party challenger to knock off a Senate incumbent. Polling shows a competitive race, and Cochran hasn’t faced a real opponent in decades.

National conservative groups including the Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks have all endorsed McDaniel, giving him powerful allies who can help raise big chunks of money.
 
Cochran didn’t decide to run for reelection until early December and only hired a campaign manager within the last few weeks, so his fundraising numbers will matter a lot — but the big number won’t come until the end of next quarter, when it will become clear if he’s marshaling enough support to defeat a serious primary challenger.
 
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)
 
Peterson has yet to say whether he’s running for reelection — and his slow fundraising pace through much of last year has many speculating the longtime Agriculture Committee member will retire.
 
Democrats have sought to put those rumors to rest, promising an improved number for Peterson in the fourth quarter from the dismal $82,000 he raised in the third.

He’s had help from national Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who held a fundraiser for him in late November.
 
Republicans covet Peterson’s GOP-leaning district and have been airing ads attacking him. Peterson often starts off with a slow fundraising pace, so he shouldn’t be counted out, but another poor fundraising quarter could be a sign he’s decided to hang it up.
 
Former Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan (R)
 
Sullivan jumped into Alaska’s Senate race in mid-October, shaking up the GOP primary to challenge Sen. Mark Begich (D).
 
Republican strategists have been predicting a big fundraising quarter from Sullivan, a former Bush appointee with close ties to a number of national Republicans. His brother is a top fundraiser for Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).
 
Sullivan’s main primary opponent, Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell (R), has struggled so far with fundraising, bringing in just $200,000 last quarter.
 
If Sullivan can post a huge fundraising quarter, it could help establish him as the clear front-runner on the GOP side. But if he fails to live up to the hype, the primary could turn into a slugfest.
 
Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas)
 
Stockman’s campaign against Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) will have to gear up fast if he hopes to be taken seriously by voters.
 
Stockman had just $32,000 in the bank as of the end of September — and more than $160,000 in debt — while Cornyn had around $7 million. The disparity could prove insurmountable, given that a week of basic advertising in Texas can cost upwards of $1.5 million.
 
Texas’s mid-March primary means Stockman doesn’t have much time to fundraise. Though he didn’t enter the race until Dec. 9, if he hopes to have any chance of staying competitive against Cornyn, he’ll have to show some major fundraising numbers in the closing weeks of the quarter.
 
Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.)
 
LoBiondo is facing his first real challenge since he won his seat nearly two decades ago.
 
The nine-term GOP congressman represents a Democratic-leaning district yet has never won with less than 57 percent of the vote. This time, Democrats think they have a strong candidate in attorney William Hughes (D), the son of former Rep. Bill Hughes (D-N.J.)
 
LoBiondo has signaled he’s working hard in preparation for a tough reelection battle. Still, Democrats are waiting to see whether his fundraising shows a big jump from the $100,000 he brought in last quarter.