Democratic senators facing tough 2014 reelection fights low on money

Several Senate Democrats who are up for reelection in 2014 have raised less than half a million dollars for their campaign war chests despite being vulnerable to Republican challengers.

Sens. Mark BegichMark BegichThe future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map Trump campaign left out of Alaska voter guide MORE (D-Alaska), Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenThe Hill's 12:30 Report Trump reinstates ban on US funding for abortion overseas Trump poised to reinstate 'global gag rule' on Roe v. Wade anniversary: report MORE (D-N.H.) and Tom UdallTom UdallSenate committee approves Commerce nominee Paul, Lee call on Trump to work with Congress on foreign policy Senate takes first step toward repealing ObamaCare MORE (D-N.M.) have spent relatively little time raising money during their first term. Begich represents a traditionally Republican state, while Shaheen and Udall hail from states where Republicans are often competitive.

At the end of March, Begich reported $449,000 in his campaign account, Shaheen reported $148,000 and Udall reported $205,000.

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The modest fundraising hauls could be a troubling sign for Democrats, who are facing a daunting election map in 2014 regardless of whether they hold onto their majority in this year’s election.

Democrats will be defending 20 seats in 2014, compared to just 13 for Republicans. That’s a smaller disparity than this year, when the ratio is 23 to 10, but the 2014 map looks much less favorable for Democrats due to where the races are taking place.

Republican and Democratic strategists say Sens. Al FrankenAl FrankenFranken emerges as liberal force in hearings Trump nominees dodge 'climate denier' charge Justice requires higher standard than Sessions MORE (D), Tim JohnsonTim JohnsonCourt ruling could be game changer for Dems in Nevada Bank lobbyists counting down to Shelby’s exit Former GOP senator endorses Clinton after Orlando shooting MORE (D) and Kay HaganKay Hagan Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D) will face difficult 2014 races in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Carolina, respectively.

The task for Democrats will only get harder if the party suffers a wave of retirements, which would put the party immediately on the defensive for the 2014 cycle.

Sens. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.) and Carl LevinCarl LevinObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers 'Nuclear option' for Supreme Court nominees will damage Senate McCain's Supreme Court strategy leads to nuclear Senate MORE (D-Mich.), two veteran legislators up for reelection in 2014, have less than $1 million on hand in their campaign accounts, fundraising reports show. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), another longtime incumbent, has just $170,000 in his account.

The junior Democrats who will be fighting for survival do not appear worried about their fundraising. An aide to Begich noted the senator recently raised about $100,000 at an event with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and “has already been laying important groundwork” for his race.

A Shaheen spokesman said his boss “is focused on raising money for colleagues who are up this year.”

Democrats say they’ll be playing offense in 2014 as well, and see Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump, Senate leaders huddling on Supreme Court Senate panel votes to confirm Trump’s Transportation pick Sanders set for clash with Trump’s budget pick MORE (Ky.) as vulnerable.

“The most vulnerable Republican is Mitch McConnell,” said a senior Democratic strategist who noted McConnell won with only 53 percent of the vote in 2008. “He has the lowest reelection number of any Senate Republican running.”

Defeating McConnell would be a very tough task, considering he had $5.1 million cash on hand in his campaign account at the end of March and survived 2008, a terrible year for Republican candidates.

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“If Democrats want to set a cash bonfire in Kentucky again, that’s certainly up to them. We’ve got a political graveyard full of folks who can tell them how to apply for the permit,” said Josh Holmes, McConnell’s chief of staff.

Campaign war chests are not a perfect indicator of pending retirements, but they can provide a signal — or at least scare off potential challengers.

Some Democrats think Rockefeller, who was first elected to the Senate in 1984, could retire. He made his mark chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Commerce Committee and has been beset by orthopedic problems.

Rockefeller has remained vague about his plans.

“The 2014 election is still a good ways off, and the senator is staying focused on work rather than the politics. But let there be no doubt that he intends to ask West Virginians for their continued support when the time comes,” said a Rockefeller spokeswoman.

One Democratic strategist said Rockefeller’s choice could depend on the plans of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax BaucusFive reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through Business groups express support for Branstad nomination The mysterious sealed opioid report fuels speculation MORE (D-Mont.). Rockefeller ranks one spot behind him on the committee.

Baucus has $3.1 million in cash on hand and seems poised to run. Rockefeller has only $827,000 in the bank, but Democratic leaders feel reassured by his ability to dip into his personal wealth to boost a campaign.

West Virginia, which has trended Republican in recent election cycles, would be a tough state for Democrats to defend. One GOP aide said Rep. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Moore CapitoGOP senators: Give states the option of keeping ObamaCare Five takeaways from Pruitt's EPA hearing Last Congress far from ‘do-nothing’ MORE (R) might have been eyeing Rockefeller’s seat when she passed on challenging Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinDemocrats delay vote on Sessions nomination Cabinet picks boost 2018 Dems Democrats expected to delay Sessions vote MORE (D-W.Va.).

Levin reported $586,000 in cash on hand at the end of March, a relatively small amount for a committee chairman. But the amount is more than he raised at the same point in the 2008 election cycle.

A spokeswoman said Levin “is focused on his work serving the people of Michigan in the Senate right now and has not made a decision about 2014.”

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Lautenberg will be 90 years old on Election Day 2014 but says he intends to run.

He sent out a fundraising letter Monday criticizing Bain Capital, which seemed to send a message to Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, who on Sunday scolded Democrats for politicizing Mitt Romney’s record at the private-equity firm. One Democratic strategist said Monday that Booker could be a successor to Lautenberg.

Two senior Republican incumbents with modest fundraising totals, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad CochranThad CochranGOP senators voice misgivings about short-term spending bill Trump's wrong to pick Bannon or Sessions for anything Bottom Line MORE (Miss.) and Sen. Pat RobertsPat RobertsOvernight Finance: Scoop – Trump team eyes dramatic spending cuts | Treasury pick survives stormy hearing Hearing derailed after senator suggests colleague needs Valium Live coverage: Senators grill Trump's Treasury pick MORE (Kan.), represent states where Democrats have little hope of capturing a seat.

Roberts has already announced his plans to run for reelection. Cochran has not.

A spokesman for Cochran said his boss is focused on helping Republican candidates in 2012, adding “there is plenty of time” to raise money for 2014.