Crist among well-known candidates keeping first-quarter totals private

Several prominent 2010 candidates have yet to release their first-quarter fundraising totals, prompting questions about how much they’ve banked.

Senate candidates Charlie Crist, the GOP governor of Florida; Alexi Giannoulias, Illinois’s Democratic state treasurer; and California GOP Senate candidate Carly Fiorina are all keeping their totals to themselves even as their rivals boast of robust first-quarter tallies.

It’s possible all three are sitting on huge fundraising numbers and are waiting to make a big media splash before April 15, the deadline for submitting a report on first-quarter tallies to the Federal Election Commission.

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But keeping quiet on the figures will also prompt speculation that their campaigns haven’t equaled the donations of their competitors.

“You’re in one of two positions,” said John Aristotle Phillips, CEO of the Washington-based political consulting firm Aristotle. “One is you have the juice and you’re going to be able to intimidate your opponent, and the other scenario is your fundraising has lagged and you’re trying to do damage control.

“This is all about a head game on your opponents,” he said.

Crist’s primary opponent, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R), pulled in $3.6 million in the first quarter — roughly the same amount raised by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) combined. Rubio, a conservative darling who appears to have the momentum in his challenge against Crist, has trumpeted those numbers.

Crist’s history is that of a prolific fundraiser, and he could be waiting for the perfect time to release his own bombshell number. But recent reports indicate his cash flow has tapered after his initial campaign kickoff.

Giannoulias had several big fundraising quarters before the February primary. But he has been silent even as Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) announced he raised $2.2 million in the last three months. The two are competing for President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat.

In California, Fiorina is also waiting to release her numbers.

Fiorina is personally wealthy but has pledged not to self-fund her campaign. Observers are waiting to see if she is getting financial support from donors or if she has had to rely on her own money.

One of her main primary opponents, former Rep. Tom Campbell (Calif.), announced earlier this week that he’d raised $1.63 million in the last quarter.

“If you’ve got bad numbers you want to bury it; if you’ve got good numbers you want to release it [so as] to have the most devastating effect on the opposition,” Phillips said.

Rep. Kendrick Meek’s (D) campaign also has not released its first quarter fundraising figures. Meek is running as a Democratic candidate for Florida’s Senate seat.

Phillips compared the release of fundraising numbers to the “reveal” at a burlesque show — the dancer teases the audience with a glimpse of what they might see later. “You want to minimize expectations, or control expectations in such a way that no matter what number you release, be it good or bad, it appears great,” he said.

In New Hampshire, the leading Democratic candidates in the 2nd district have both released their numbers, but not at the same time and not the same figures.

Katrina Swett announced Thursday she raised $325,000 since launching her campaign in January. Swett also had the advantage of starting the race with money left over from her brief 2008 Senate run. As a result, her House campaign ended the first fundraising quarter with over $1 million in the bank, $970,000 of which is designated for the primary.

One of Swett's main rivals for the nod, attorney Ann McLane Kuster, reported raising $285,000 in the last quarter. Kuster’s campaign opted to focus on thesupport she's received from in-state donors; she noted that $475,000 of the campaign’s total of $835,000 came from New Hampshire donors.

But the Kuster camp said it's waiting for the April 15 deadline to release its cash on hand, which may be significantly lower than Swett’s total.

“Ultimately, if you’ve got bad numbers, you don’t want any story at all,” said Phillips. “What do you do? You can try to change the subject.”