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 Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Defense: VA chief won't resign | Dem wants probe into VA hacking claim | Trump official denies plan for 'bloody nose' N. Korea strike | General '100 percent' confident in US missile defense Trump official denies US planning 'bloody nose' strike on North Korea House Oversight Committee opens probe into sexual abuse of gymnasts MORE (D-N.H.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallCongress fails miserably: For Asian-Americans, immigration proposals are personal attacks Senate rejects centrist immigration bill after Trump veto threat Dem senators want list of White House officials with interim security clearances 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.

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 FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenShould the Rob Porter outcome set the standard? Grassley, Dems step up battle over judicial nominees Sen. Gillibrand, eyeing 2020 bid, rankles some Democrats MORE (D), Tim JohnsonTimothy (Tim) Peter 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 Ruthven HaganPolitics is purple in North Carolina Democrats can win North Carolina just like Jimmy Carter did in 1976 North Carolina will be a big battleground state in 2020 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 RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE (D-W.Va.) and Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinSen. Gillibrand, eyeing 2020 bid, rankles some Democrats The Hill's 12:30 Report Congress needs bipartisanship to fully investigate Russian influence 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure 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.

“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 Sieben Baucus2020 Dems pose a big dilemma for Schumer Steady American leadership is key to success with China and Korea Orrin Hatch, ‘a tough old bird,’ got a lot done in the Senate 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 Wellons Moore CapitoAt least Alzheimer’s research is bringing Washington together Overnight Tech: Intel chief says 'no doubt' Russia will meddle in midterms | Dems press FCC over net neutrality comments | Bill aims to bridge rural-urban digital divide | FCC to review rules on children's TV Senators offer bill to close rural-urban internet divide MORE (R) might have been eyeing Rockefeller’s seat when she passed on challenging Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPavlich: The claim Trump let the mentally ill get guns is a lie Toomey to introduce bill broadening background checks for firearms Scott Walker backs West Virginia attorney general in GOP Senate primary 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.”

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 CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranOvernight Finance: Breaking down Trump's budget | White House finally releases infrastructure plan | Why it faces a tough road ahead | GOP, Dems feud over tax-cut aftermath | Markets rebound McConnell tees up budget deal McConnell urging Mississippi gov to appoint himself if Cochran resigns: report MORE (Miss.) and Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsOvernight Finance: Lawmakers, Treasury look to close tax law loopholes | Trump says he backs gas tax hike | Markets rise despite higher inflation | Fannie Mae asks for .7B Senators working on fix to agriculture provision in GOP tax law Trump budget would slash crop insurance funds for farmers 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.