By Shane D’Aprile - 02/02/11 01:38 AM EST
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.).
Several other Democrats, including Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire McCaskillOvernight Tech: Obama heads back to Silicon Valley | FCC meeting preview | Yahoo bans terror content | Zuckerberg on sit-in live streams Senator shares frustrating call with cable company Hate TV customer service? So does your senator MORE (Mo.), Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownClinton vows to appoint trade prosecutor to fight bad policies RNC strategizes against Clinton VP contenders Senate Dem won't rule out blocking Puerto Rico debt relief MORE (Ohio), Jon TesterJon TesterBernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate Senators roll out bipartisan gun proposal Congress should stop government hacking and protect the Fourth Amendment MORE (Mont.) and Joe ManchinJoe ManchinGun-control supporters plan next steps versus NRA 14 dead in West Virginia flooding Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote 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 ReidAbortion ruling roils race for the White House, Senate Dem senator urges support for House Puerto Rico bill Reid: McConnell silence on Trump 'speaks volumes' MORE (D-Nev.), Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game Reid: House-passed Zika deal a 'disgrace' Bernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate MORE (D-Wash.) and Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerCalif. Dem missed votes, sit-in on trip to Spain Hispanic Caucus PAC looks to flex its muscles in 2016 Dems who sat out the sit-in offer array of reasons 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 BennetColorado GOP Senate race to unseat Dem incumbent is wide open Ted Cruz chooses sides in Colorado Senate primary The Trail 2016: Reversal of fortunes 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 WickerRubio will run for reelection Lawmakers push first responder network on rural service Senate GOP deeply concerned over Trump effect MORE (R-Miss.) just $402,000, and Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerGOP senator: Something 'very, very good' can come from Brexit vote GOP senators: Brexit vote a wake-up call Bipartisan gun measure survives test vote 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 HatchA bipartisan bright spot we can’t afford to pass up: child welfare reform Medicare trust fund running out of money fast Long past time to fix evidence-sharing across borders 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 ChaffetzOvernight Energy: Obama signs chemical safety reform into law House caucus to focus on business in Latin America Freedom Caucus urges vote on impeaching IRS commissioner 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.