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 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 Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenRussian interference looms over European elections Restore funding to United Nations Population Fund Senators urge Tillerson to meet with Russian opposition activists MORE (D-N.H.) and Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Energy: Trump orders review of national monuments, claiming ‘egregious abuse’ Dem vows to fight Trump 'every step of the way' on national monuments Senate Dems want Trump to release ethics waivers, visitor logs 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, top Dems blast FCC over net neutrality proposal Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general Twitter jumps on news of O'Reilly's ouster 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 HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock 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 LevinFor the sake of American taxpayers, companies must pay their fair share What the Iran-Contra investigation can teach us about Russia probe Senate about to enter 'nuclear option' death spiral 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 McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report McConnell: Senate will pass short-term funding bill to avoid shutdown Lawmakers push one-week stopgap funding bill 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 BaucusChanging of the guard at DC’s top lobby firm GOP hasn’t reached out to centrist Dem senators Five reasons why Tillerson is likely to get through 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 CapitoRob Thomas: Anti-Trump celebs have become 'white noise' Congress nears deal on help for miners Overnight Energy: Lawmakers work toward deal on miners’ benefits MORE (R) might have been eyeing Rockefeller’s seat when she passed on challenging Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSenators push 'cost-effective' reg reform Congress nears deal on help for miners Senate votes to confirm Rosenstein as deputy attorney general 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 CochranMcConnell: Senate will pass short-term funding bill to avoid shutdown Lawmakers push one-week stopgap funding bill Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups MORE (Miss.) and Sen. Pat RobertsPat RobertsTrump tax plan prompts GOP fears about deficit Overnight Energy: Trump to sign orders on offshore drilling, national monuments Watchdog: EPA spending on water pollution campaign was legal 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.