Senate Dems’ money pace flags

Vulnerable Democratic senators have raised far less money than their predecessors did two years ago, a sign that their party could struggle to keep its majority.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) barely raised any money in the final quarter of the year, pulling in just $12,000 and reporting $444,000 on hand. Webb is considered vulnerable, and might face a formidable candidate and fundraiser in former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.). 

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Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) raised just over $80,000 during the final three months of 2010, more than half of it from political action committees, and reported $1.4 million cash on hand.

Several other Democrats, including Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGOP sees fresh opening with Dems’ single payer embrace Senators blast internet subsidy program It is time to make domestic terrorism a federal crime MORE (Mo.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell Brown'Hillbilly Elegy' author won't run for Senate Brown, Portman urge Trump administration to move quickly on a steel decision Dems call on DeVos to work with CFPB to protect student borrowers MORE (Ohio), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterFive things to know about Sanders’s single-payer plan Where Dems stand on Sanders's single-payer bill Overnight Regulation: DeVos ignites backlash with rewrite of campus sexual assault policy l EPA power plant rule decision likely this fall | Panel approves Trump financial regulator nominees MORE (Mont.) and Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinGOP sees fresh opening with Dems’ single payer embrace Trump steps up courtship of Dems The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (W.Va.), posted solid numbers, but none has more than $1.5 million cash on hand.

The early numbers don’t measure up to those that several of their Senate colleagues posted ahead of the past cycle. At the start of 2009, Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Harry ReidHarry ReidThe Memo: Trump pulls off a stone-cold stunner The Memo: Ending DACA a risky move for Trump Manchin pressed from both sides in reelection fight MORE (D-Nev.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayWeek ahead: Senators near deal to stabilize ObamaCare markets Policymaking commission offers a glimmer of hope in hyper-partisan Washington Dems call on DeVos to work with CFPB to protect student borrowers MORE (D-Wash.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerTrump riles Dems with pick for powerful EPA job Pelosi's chief of staff stepping down Time is now to address infrastructure needs MORE (D-Calif.) all had more than $2.5 million cash on hand.

Feingold began the 2010 cycle with $2.5 million, Boxer with $4.1 million, Reid with $3.3 million and Murray with $2.5 million.

The fast start didn’t save Feingold, who lost his reelection bid, but it helped the other three senators win in a tough year for Democrats.

Republicans need to pick up three or four seats in 2012 (depending on President Obama’s reelection contest) to win back the majority in the upper chamber; the party has 23 Democratic targets to choose from. The GOP’s chances also got a lift last month when Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) announced he would not run for reelection in a deep-red state.

Despite the slow start for some Senate Democrats, the year-end numbers represent a quarter that is traditionally the low point for those heading into a reelection cycle. The 2012 election is still more than 21 months away.

At this point in the last cycle, noted one Democratic strategist, Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetGOP eying 'blue slip' break to help Trump fill the courts NFL star claims he was victim of 'abusive conduct' by Las Vegas police Gardner throws support behind DREAM Act MORE (D-Colo.), who proved a strong fundraiser and ended up winning a close race, had just been appointed to his seat and had barely raised a dime.

With exceptions, Senate Republicans up in 2012 haven’t posted any mammoth cash-on-hand numbers, either. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) is sitting on just $1.2 million, Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerWeek ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny Senator says he nearly has the votes for ObamaCare repeal GOP braces for Bannon primary attacks MORE (R-Miss.) just $402,000, and Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Corker pressed as reelection challenges mount MORE (R-Tenn.) just $1.1 million.

In Virginia, Democrats are grumbling behind the scenes about Webb’s slow start, especially now that Allen is officially in the race. 

Webb has yet to make an official decision on 2012 and has said he won’t start fundraising until he makes that choice. Webb’s meager fundraising will add to doubts that he intends to run for reelection. 

Nelson has said he intends to run again next year, but speculation that he might opt for retirement lingers. Open-seat contests in either of those states would immediately favor the GOP.

Some encouraging news for Senate Democrats did come in the year-end reports of Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.). Both have likewise been the subject of retirement rumors, but Bingaman picked up his fundraising pace over the final three months of 2010, raising $214,000. Kohl didn’t raise any money in the final quarter, though loaned himself $1 million, an indication that he’s prepared to run for another term next year.

If Bingaman and Kohl remain on the ballot in 2012, both races will be tough pickups for the GOP next year.

Despite the early edge for Republicans, the cycle has barely begun and the GOP faces potentially bruising primaries in several key states, including Virginia, Missouri, Texas and Nevada — contests that could siphon financial resources from Republican hopefuls.

One potential sign of trouble for the GOP is Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) year-end report. Ensign barely raised anything in the fourth quarter of the year and spent some $56,000 on legal fees during the final three months of 2010. 

But Republicans might actually be helped if Ensign decided against a reelection bid. The Senate Ethics Committee announced Tuesday it had hired a special counsel to look into whether Ensign used his position to improperly help a former aide. The aide was married to a woman with whom Ensign had an affair. 

Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), a top Democratic target in 2012, has more than $7 million cash on hand.


Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchFinance to hold hearing on ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Finance: CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill | DOJ investigates Equifax stock sales | House weighs tougher rules for banks dealing with North Korea Week ahead in finance: Clock ticking for GOP on tax reform MORE (R-Utah) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) reported more than $2 million in the bank in their year-end reports. Both are top targets of Tea Party activists in 2012.

Hatch raised some $400,000 during the final three months of the year and reported $2.5 million cash on hand. Lugar raised some $170,000 during the final quarter of 2010, reporting $2.3 million on hand.

Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzFive memorable moments from Hillary Clinton’s newest book Clinton says she mistook Chaffetz for Priebus at Trump's inauguration Curtis wins GOP primary for House seat vacated by Jason Chaffetz MORE (R-Utah), a potential Hatch primary challenger, starts the year with just $140,000 in the bank. Chaffetz raised just $5,000 between Nov. 23 and Dec. 31.