Senate races

Senate races

Steelman lags Akin in Missouri GOP Senate fundraising

Former Missouri State Treasurer Sarah Steelman spent more money than she raised for her Senate campaign, the second quarter in a row that the woman once considered a top recruit to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has posted lackluster fundraising figures. Steelman finished the quarter with less than $200,000 cash on hand after raising $200,000 and spending more than that from April through June.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) raised more than a half million dollars in the same period and has $1.2 million cash on hand for the race, putting him in the driver's seat for the primary. But his numbers aren't overwhelming: Ann Wagner, who is running for his House seat, raised about the same amount in slightly more than two months, although her numbers were very high for a non-incumbent House candidate.

McCaskill raised $1.4 million in the last quarter and has almost $3 million cash on hand to use against the eventual nominee. No matter who the GOP candidate is, she could face a tough race in the swing state. Her job approval numbers have been below 50 percent in polls conducted this year, and she admitted in March that she owed $300,000 in back taxes on a private plane she owned with her husband, and that she had used taxpayer money to fly the plane on a political trip. She tackled the issue head-on, apologizing to voters, paying the back taxes and selling the plane, but the issue will likely be raised by Republicans in the general election.

Akin may have his own troubles: he recently switched his voting registration the same day that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that he had been voting in a town where he no longer lived.

Some Democrats are privately rooting for Akin to win the primary — they believe his more conservative profile and long voting record in the House make him an easier opponent than Steelman would be, at least on paper. Businessman John Brunner is also considering entering the GOP primary field. Brunner would be able to self-fund, and Steelman's anemic numbers might encourage him to run.

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Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $11.8M

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $11.8 million in the last three months and has $9.8 million cash on hand, the committee announced Friday afternoon. That includes $4.8 million raised in June alone.

The committee refused to say how much debt it has. As of the end of May it had $3.8 million. At this time in 2009 the DSCC had $8 million cash on hand and almost no debt, and had raised $6.3 million in June.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has not yet disclosed its fundraising totals for the quarter. As of the end of May it had $1.8 million cash on hand and no debt.

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Nelson far outpaces challenger in Nebraska Senate race

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) raised more than $900,000 and has $2.9 million cash on hand, far outpacing the Republican front-runner in preparation for what will likely be a hard-fought election. The total was first reported by the Lincoln Journal Star.

His most likely Republican opponent is state Attorney General Jon Bruning, who announced although Bruning will have primary competition. Bruning announced Friday that he had raised $334,000 for the quarter, a low sum for a presumed front-runner in a competitive race. Bruning does have $1.3 million in the bank thanks to his early start, however.

Nelson has had success in the conservative state by running as a center-right Democrat. But that image was tarnished by his vote for President Obama's healthcare reform package and support for other Democratic initiatives.

The state is a cheap one to campaign in: Omaha's media market is not very expensive, and covers much of Nebraska. Nelson spent almost $7 million in his cakewalk reelection in 2006, although he was outspent by businessman Pete Ricketts that year by a two-to-one margin.

This post was updated at 2:00pm to reflect Bruning's fundraising totals.

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GOP Senate dark horse posts solid fundraising start in NM

Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) and New Mexico Lieutenant Gov. John Sanchez (R) are the front-runners to be their party's Senate nominee. But a third candidate, businessman Greg Sowards (R), may raise enough money to put his name in the conversation.

Sowards raised $230,000 in the last three months and has $334,000 cash on hand, a promising early sum for an unknown candidate. If he continues to fundraise at that pace, he could have enough money be a factor in the race. Much of that was self-funding: He has given his campaign more than $200,000 so far, and promises to spend enough of his own funds to remain competitive in the state. Neither Wilson nor Sanchez has announced how much they've raised.

A late-June poll conducted by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm had Wilson holding a wide lead in the primary, with 52 percent of likely Republican primary voters supporting her, 24 percent supporting Sanchez, 8 percent supporting Sowards and 4 percent supporting fringe candidate Bill English.

Wilson is the preferred candidate of many establishment Republicans. She is well-known after her 2008 Senate primary run, which she lost to Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), who went on to lose to Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). She also represented Albuquerque, the state's largest city, in Congress. But some conservatives believe she is too centrist. Erik Erickson, founder of the popular conservative blog RedState, tweeted when she announced that "Keeping Heather Wilson out of the Senate will be the next great noble cause for conservatives."

Doing so will be harder without a consensus conservative candidate. Sanchez's hopes to catch Wilson would be complicated if Sowards can keep himself in the high single digits in polls or improve upon that.

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Cornyn coaches GOP recruits on how to rebut Dem debt-limit criticism

The head of Senate Republicans' campaign efforts sent a memo to GOP Senate candidates Wednesday, warning them of withering Democratic attacks and advising how to best ward off criticism related to the debt ceiling.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), warned candidates to brace for Democratic efforts to place the blame on Republican candidates if the government defaults on its debt and, as a result, halts payment of Social Security checks or other government benefits.

Cornyn told the candidates to keep the blame squarely on the Obama administration, which, the Texas Republican said, could easily guarantee the continued flow of Social Security benefits. President Obama's warning that checks could cease in case of a default was just a scare tactic, Cornyn charged.

"[T]he decision to stop sending Social Security checks, or other benefits lies solely with the Obama Administration," Cornyn wrote to the GOP candidates.

The idea that seniors might not see their checks as a result of a default is meant to drive home with voters the need for an agreement, as their benefits might be threatened if the administration and GOP leaders can't reach a deal.

“The possibility that seniors could be denied Social Security benefits is frightening," said Sen. Patty Murray, the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in response. "Rather than accuse the President of scare tactics, my Republican colleagues should tell the extreme voices in their own party that it is time to act responsibly."

Cornyn's memo is meant to prepare Republicans for the eventual criticism Democrats would level toward their campaigns in case of default. The NRSC chairman, though, lined up a series of talking points for candidates, including emphasizing the ballooned deficits during Obama's time in office and Senate Democrats' not having passed a budget in more than 800 days.

"[A]as negotiations between the two parties moves forward, we would not be surprised to see Democrats continue to use any and every tool such as this to increase our country’s credit card limit, while passing job-killing tax hikes on to American families and small businesses," Cornyn wrote.


—Updated 10:41 a.m.

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GOP candidate raises impressive amount for Ohio Senate race

Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) raised $2.3 million in the last three months for his race against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), according to his campaign, which is a huge sum for the candidate. Brown raised $1.5 million in the same period.

While it is as yet unclear how much total cash Mandel has in the bank, his haul is impressive. Other candidates, including Senate incumbents, have been touting numbers half as large this week.

Brown has sought to position himself as a populist, moderate Democrat in the purple state, but a June poll by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling indicated he is not well-known in Ohio. Brown held a wide lead over the Mandel in the poll, but much of that was due to low public knowledge about the Republican — a problem money can go a long way to fix.

Mandel's early fundraising success is crucial for him to compete in the Buckeye State. Ohio has expensive media markets in Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. Brown spent more than $10 million on his 2006 election, and with a presidential campaign raging, Mandel and Brown will both need to keep raising money at a steady clip in order to be able to get their messages out.

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Nevada Senate candidates Heller, Berkley neck and neck in fundraising

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) both had strong fundraising quarters and are neck and neck in their quest for campaign funds.

Heller raised more than $1 million during the last three months and has $2.3 million cash on hand, while Berkley raised more than $1.2 million and has $2.5 million cash on hand.

Both are large sums this early in the race. Heller raised more than $300,000 in March, the first month of his campaign, and had $1.4 million cash on hand as of April.

The race will likely be an expensive one. Last year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his Republican challenger Sharron Angle combined to spend more than $53 million on their election. Nevada will also likely be presidential election battleground, meaning that campaign advertising will need to be bought in even larger chunks by Heller and Berkley to cut through the clutter of other ads.

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Berkley raises big bucks for Nevada Senate race

Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) raised more than $1.2 million in the last three months for her race against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), a former congressman who was appointed to the Senate earlier this year.

Berkley's campaign has $2.5 million cash on hand, a large sum this early in the race for a non-incumbent. Heller has not yet reported how much he raised in the past quarter of fundraising. He raised more than $300,000 in March, the first month of his campaign, and had $1.4 million cash on hand as of April.

The race will likely be an expensive one. Last year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican candidate Sharron Angle combined to spend more than $53 million on their election. Nevada will also likely be presidential election battleground, meaning that campaign advertising will need to be bought in even larger chunks by Heller and Berkley to cut through the clutter of other ads.

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Fiorina joins National Republican Senatorial Committee

Former Hewlett-Packard Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina will join the National Republican Senatorial Committee as its vice chairwoman, according to a release. Fiorina, who lost a Senate race against Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) last election, will focus on fundraising.

“I’m pleased to welcome my friend Carly Fiorina to the NRSC team, where her many business and civic achievements will make her an invaluable leader and fundraiser during this critical election cycle,” NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in the announcement.
 
Fiorina's loss to Boxer last fall — by 10 percentage points — wasn't due to lack of money: Her campaign raised and spent more than $21 million against Boxer, although half of that money she provided to the campaign herself. Fiorina has close ties with wealthy possible donors in the computer industry as well as in the donor-ripe metro areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and is known as a skilled businesswoman and money manager: good assets for a top fundraiser.

She joins a committee that helped her last campaign: The NRSC gave her  $42,600 last election, as much as they did directly to any other candidate.

Democrats criticized Fiorina's record. "Carly Fiorina laid off thousands and outsourced good American jobs overseas, but that didn’t stop national Republicans from investing millions in her campaign, which she lost by double digits, or hiring her today," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Spokesman Shripal Shah. "Republicans are not only working to protect tax breaks for millionaires, but they’re also finding them jobs."

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Club for Growth President Chocola voted for debt-limit increase while in House

The fiscally conservative Club for Growth has been on the attack against any Republicans who might be considering a vote to raise the debt limit.

But in 2004, the group's president voted to do exactly that.

Club for Growth President and former Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.) voted with most other House Republicans that year to raise the debt ceiling. Chocola's group is now running television advertisements against Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Dick Lugar (Ind.), criticizing their records on fiscal matters and warning them to oppose any increase to the debt limit that isn't tied to large spending cuts and a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

Both senators could have primary fights on their hands: Lugar is being opposed by Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, while Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is mulling a challenge to Hatch.

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