Democratic Senate candidates top Republicans in 4th quarter

Democratic Senate candidates continued to trump their Republican counterparts in many key races around the country in the fourth quarter.

Financial reports show Democrats topped Republicans by hundreds of thousands of dollars in races in Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Virginia.

GOP incumbents held fast to money edges in other top races in Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, Oregon and Texas.

The map of races, GOP retirements, and money all appear to be favoring the Democrats with 10 months to go until they look to keep and expand their majority.

The biggest fundraising haul of them all came in Virginia, where former Gov. Mark Warner (D) pulled in $2.7 million to bring his cash on hand to $2.9 million in the open-seat race to succeed retiring Sen. John Warner (R). Former Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) raised just $350,000 for a seat many analysts see as the most likely to flip Democratic.

Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) outraised both of his Republican House colleagues for retiring Sen. Pete Domenici’s (R) seat. Udall’s $1 million was more than Rep. Steve Pearce’s $430,000 and Rep. Heather Wilson’s $520,000 combined.

In Colorado, Udall’s cousin Rep. Mark Udall (D) raised $1.1 million to former Rep. Bob Schaffer’s (R) $670,000. Mark Udall, who announced his run nearly three years ago, holds a $3.6 million to $1.5 million edge in cash.

Democrats also outraised two GOP incumbents – Sens. Norm Coleman (Minn.) and John Sununu (N.H.) – by modest amounts. Former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D) raised $1.2 million to Sununu’s $920,000, while comedian Al Franken raised nearly $2 million to Coleman’s $1.7 million.

Both Coleman and Sununu, however, maintain $2 million-plus cash advantages. Franken raised about $7 million in 2007 but spent more than half, retaining just $3.1 million in cash.

Attorney Mike Ciresi raised less than $300,000 and was forced to self-fund more than $500,000 for his primary against Franken. Ciresi had said when the campaign began that he didn’t plan to self-fund, as he did to the tune of millions in a 2000 Senate primary.

The top-targeted Democratic senator, Mary Landrieu (La.), raised more than $1 million to state Treasurer John Kennedy’s (R) $500,000. Kennedy entered the race more than halfway through the quarter.

In other top races, GOP Sens. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Susan Collins (Maine), Elizabeth Dole (N.C.), Gordon Smith (Ore.) and John Cornyn (Texas) all continued to outraise their opponents.

In Oregon, state House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D) raised $620,000 but is still far behind Smith’s $4.4 million cash on hand. Merkley’s primary opponent, former Justice Department attorney Steve Novick, raised $220,000.

Collins maintained an advantage against Rep. Tom Allen (D), raising $960,000 to Allen’s $810,000. She has $3.9 million on hand, while Allen has $2.5 million.

Tarheel State legislator Kay Hagan (D) raised $560,000 in her first financial quarter, while Dole raised $1.1 million.

McConnell and Cornyn both raised about $1.7 million, with no opponent breaking half a million in receipts.

State Rep. Rick Noriega (D) raised about $400,000 for his race against Cornyn.

In other races of note: Idaho Lt. Gov. Jim Risch (R) raised $240,000 to former Rep. Larry LaRocco’s (D) $170,000, former Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns (R) raised $1.4 million for a race in which he still has no major opponent, and Republican businesswoman Anne Evans Estabrook plugged $1.6 million of her own money into her race against Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).

The Idaho and Nebraska seats are being vacated by retiring GOP Sens. Larry Craig and Chuck Hagel, respectively.

No Republicans are yet raising significant money in races against targeted Democratic Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.) and Tim Johnson (S.D.). Baucus raised $1.5 million, while Johnson raised more than $700,000.

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher said: “Our Senate candidates had strong responses from donors at the end of the year, and we believe they will be well prepared to win in November.”

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Miller said: “As campaigns across the country swing into gear, Democratic candidates have momentum on their side and are raising the money the need to get their message out. Our incumbents are in strong shape, and our challengers are in position to win in November.”