Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) raised $13,000 in the last three months of 2012 and has just $233,000 in the bank — a sign he may be leaning toward retirement at the end of his term.
Levin, the chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, has not said publicly whether he'll run in 2014. His office said he'd make a decision in the next three weeks.
The six-term senator will be 80 years old by the time of the next election. Although the state leans Democratic, Republicans believe Levin’s seat could be in play if he does choose to step aside.
But a Levin spokesperson said the fundraising figures — included in Federal Election Commission filings for the fourth quarter of 2012 — indicate nothing about the senator’s future plans.
"He never focuses on fundraising when he's not in cycle," said Levin spokeswoman Tara Andringa, who pointed out that the senator had raised $13,000 in the fourth quarter of 2001, shortly before he decided to seek reelection.
Democrats have been awaiting word from Levin on his plans following announcements by two other long-serving senators — Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) and Tom Harkin (Iowa) — to retire rather than run for reelection in 2014.
Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) have also not said whether or not they will run again.
Andringa noted that Levin has more money in his campaign account than he did 12 years ago: He had just $27,000 when he announced he’d run again in 2001.
He went on to raise plenty for his campaign — and trounce his GOP opponent.
The last time Levin won by less than a double-digit margin was in his first reelection, in 1984.
Since then he’s easily prevailed over various Republicans, and if he runs again it's unlikely he'd face a tough challenge.
If Levin does decide to retire, Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) is likely the strongest contender — on a short Democratic bench — to replace him.
“Gary Peters is the bench,” one top Michigan Democrat said.
That Democrat, who asked not to be named so he could candidly discuss the potential that Levin might retire, said that Peters is highly likely to run if Levin leaves.
Peters is considered a strong campaigner.
He won a tough suburban Detroit swing district in 2008 and held onto it in 2010 despite the GOP wave. Then, after his district was eliminated in redistricting, Peters defeated another incumbent Democrat in a primary for a heavily Democratic Detroit-based seat in 2012.
He’s a proven fundraiser and beloved by labor. Union leaders tried to get him to run for governor in 2010, and some have pushed him to run for that race again this time around. An open Senate seat would likely be a much easier election for Peters than taking on Republican Gov. Rick Snyder (R).
If Peters doesn’t run the bench is much shorter. There has been some buzz in the liberal blogosphere about recruiting former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) to run, though there is no evidence she’s interested in the seat. Granholm has also been discussed as a possibility for a cabinet-level appointment in the Obama White House.
Republicans have a few potential candidates who could make the race competitive, though they also have short bench in the state.
Both Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Candice Miller (R-Mich.) have proven they can win in swing districts and could be strong statewide candidates, but both now are House committee chairmen and might be less than eager to give up those roles.
President Obama won Michigan by a nine-point margin in 2012. President George H.W. Bush was the last Republican to carry the state, in 1988. The last time a Republican won a Senate election in the state was 1994.
- Updated at 4:00 p.m.