Santorum finishes with $3M in the bank

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), facing a tough challenge in his bid for a third term next year, finished the first quarter of 2005 with approximately $3 million in the bank, a Santorum aide said yesterday.

John Brabender, Santorum’s media consultant, said the money Santorum raised in the three-month period — which was not known at press time — was either the most or nearly the most he had ever raised in a three-month period.

In 2000, Santorum spent more than $12.9 million to get reelected. In 2006, he will face Democratic state Treasurer Bob Casey.

Many Democrats consider Casey a formidable candidate because he has extensive electoral experience and, as an abortion-rights foe, is expected to neutralize much of Santorum’s appeal to conservatives.

“Right after Bobby Casey announced, contributions went up quite a bit,” Brabender said. Referring to a recent trip to Philadelphia by the new Democratic National Committee chairman, Brabender added: “Then, after Howard Dean came to town, campaigning for Bobby Casey, contributions went way up.”

Democrats recently have attacked Santorum for hosting a $250,000 fundraiser during a trip he took to Florida to visit Terri Schiavo’s family. “Senator Santorum’s conscience stops when it comes to campaign cash,” said T.J. Rooney, a state representative and the chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Santorum has sought to reach out to more centrist voters over the past few months, introducing legislation for a higher minimum wage and, on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” gently rebuking House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) for his alleged ethical missteps.

Santorum and Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee are the two Republican senators whom Democrats have targeted most aggressively. Santorum won his 2000 race with 53 percent of the vote, compared to Democrat Ron Klink’s 45 percent.