FEC reports show Senate primaries growing tighter

It’s going to be a fun primary season, if Senate fundraising reports are any indication.

The money chase in several major races tightened in the fourth quarter, paving the way for competitive intra-party contests that will determine much of what happens in November.

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In Arkansas, the door was opened to Rep. John Boozman’s (R-Ark.) impending candidacy after state Sen. Gilbert Baker (R) raised a modest $300,000 for the quarter. Boozman also polled a 56-33 lead over Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) in a survey released Tuesday, making him appear the better option for the GOP establishment.

Lincoln raised $1.3 million and had a $5 million-to-$639,000 cash advantage on Baker.

We’ve known for a while that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) had a primary on his hands, and Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) closed the cash gap in the fourth quarter, despite raising less than Specter. Specter raised $1.15 million to Sestak’s $650,000, but his cash on hand remained at $8.7 million, while Sestak’s climbed to $5.1 million.

On the other side, former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) raised $1.7 million and banked $2.8 million.

Another Senate incumbent at risk is in Utah, where Sen. Bob Bennett (R) faces a May state party convention and possible June primary. Former congressional candidate Tim Bridgewater asserted himself in the fourth quarter by self-funding $226,000, while Bennett spent almost all of the $400,000 he raised for the quarter. The incumbent maintained a half-million-dollar cash edge.

Attorney Mike Lee, who entered the race this month, did not file a report. GOP activist Cherilyn Eagar raised just under $20,000 and banked $7,000.

With $800,000 raised, Sue Lowden asserted herself as the top fundraiser in the GOP primary to face Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). But it doesn’t seem to have scared away potential candidate Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R).

In addition, self-funder John Chachas banked more than three times as much as Lowden ($1.7 million), in large part thanks to his personal fortune. Reid raised $2 million but spent all of it; he has $8.7 million on hand. 

Former Ohio Rep. Rob Portman and former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte also saw self-funders plug their campaigns with more than $1 million.

Ayotte raised $630,000 but trailed businessman Bill Binnie $1.2 million to $996,000 in cash on hand. She also faces grassroots candidate Ovide Lamontagne, who raised $181,000, and businessman Jim Bender, who self-funded $500,000.

Portman has been a fundraising star but has a wealthy car salesman threatening to spend $7 million to take him down. That salesman, Tom Ganley, had total receipts (including self-funding) of $1.5 million for the quarter and banked $1.3 million, compared to $6 million cash on hand for Portman.

Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher and New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes each raised between $700,000 and $800,000 on the Democratic side. Both are favored to be their party’s nominees.

In another open-seat race in Connecticut, three Republicans — former Rep. Rob Simmons, former WWE CEO Linda McMahon and investment banker Peter Schiff — all banked more than $1 million, with McMahon spending $6 million of her own money in total. The winner is likely to face state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who entered the race last month after Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) retirement and doesn’t have to file.

In Kentucky, state Attorney General Jack Conway outraised Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, $333,000 to $225,000 in the Democratic primary and carried a nearly $1 million cash advantage into 2010. However, Conway’s fundraising has tailed off the last two quarters, and Mongiardo has polled ahead of him early on.

On the GOP side, Rand Paul outraised Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson $650,000 to $446,000 and reduced Grayson’s edge in cash on hand from $1.4 million to $1.3 million. Paul, like Mongiardo, has created a genuinely competitive primary by running an outsider campaign.

In fact, it wasn’t a good quarter to be an establishment candidate in a few states.

In Illinois, which held its primaries Tuesday (see results at TheHill.com), former Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman outraised front-running state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias at the tail end of their Democratic primary. Between Oct. 1 and Jan. 13, Hoffman raised $782,000 to Giannoulias’s $618,000.

In Florida, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio nearly matched Gov. Charlie Crist’s $2 million raised for their GOP primary. Rubio just two quarters ago was outraised $4.3 million to $340,000. Between October and the new year, he raised $1.75 million.

In North Carolina, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham outraised Secretary of State Elaine Marshall $320,000 to $127,000 in the Democratic primary.

Marshall dealt with the death of her husband during the fourth quarter. She leads in the polls thanks to her name ID but has been passed over by national Democrats in favor of Cunningham.

In the Colorado GOP primary, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton faces new competition from self-funder Tom Wiens. Norton raised a modest $550,000 and has $600,000 on hand, compared to $500,000 for Wiens, who had total receipts of $725,000.

The winner gets Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), who is still far outraising primary opponent Andrew Romanoff. He beat the former state House Speaker $1.2 million to $337,000 in the fourth quarter and leads $3.5 million to $480,000 in cash on hand.

Romanoff’s viability is an open question, much like a few other underdogs.

California Republican Chuck DeVore continues to struggle to bank money and capitalize on his support among the GOP base. The state assemblyman raised $445,000 for the quarter but spent most of it and has just $226,000 on hand.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R) has a battle on her hands, according to the polls, but she should have a huge financial advantage. She raised $1.1 million and self-funded another $2.5 million. Former Rep. Tom Campbell (R-Calif.) also entered the primary recently. The winner gets Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who raised $1.8 million and banked $7.2 million.

It’s not yet clear what happened in Kansas, where Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s (R-Kan.) campaign is refusing to release its fundraising report. Tiahrt has been routinely outraised by Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), who raised $404,000 in the fourth quarter and also leads in the polls and cash on hand.

In some other cases, it looks like smooth sailing in the primaries.

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Rep. Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) primary challenger, state Sen. Chuck Purgason, raised just $4,000 and had $125 on hand. In the general, Blunt outraised Democratic Secretary of State Robin Carnahan $1.3 million to $877,000 and holds a $2.9 million-to-$2.1 million edge in cash on hand.

There are no contested primaries in Louisiana, where Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) outraised Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) $1.2 million to $600,000.

In New York, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) faces a prospective primary from former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.). She raised $1.6 million and banked $5.1 million.