Senate Democrats look to next elections
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Facing increasingly grim prospects in the Senate this fall, Democrats are looking to 2016 as an opportunity to win back some of the seats they could lose this election cycle. 

But a look at early fundraising by likely Democratic targets reveals most vulnerable Republicans are already girding for a fight.

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The GOP insists they’ll hold whatever advantage they earn in 2014, but it’s indisputable that 2016 offers better prospects for Democrats simply because of the math. Republicans will be defending more seats, 24 to Democrats’ nine, a number on more favorable turf for Democrats.

Democratic pollster Jefrey Pollock said, while he’s confident Democrats won’t lose the Senate in 2014, the map might pan out in their favor next cycle.

“2016 offers a lot of opportunities because, in many of these states, we’re playing on friendly Democratic territory, particularly during presidential races,” he said. 

Pollock highlighted Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin as top states where Democrats might have the advantage in 2016.

Add that to potential Republican retirements in Indiana, Arizona and Iowa, as well as the likelihood that a handful of incumbents in potentially competitive states might face primary challengers, and at least two senators who might split their time and resources running for president, and the 2016 map looks much sunnier for Democrats than 2014.

An analysis by The Hill of cash-on-hand numbers at the end of 2013 for senators up in 2016 indicates many of vulnerable senators have, in fact, begun to build up financial firewalls for their reelection fights — but a few are falling behind.

Of the five senators most likely to be targeted by Democrats in 2016, three have more than $1 million cash on hand.

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteBottom line Bottom line Bottom Line MORE (R-N.H.) has $1.28 million cash on hand, while Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanNot a pretty picture: Money laundering and America's art market Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Senators holding behind-the-scenes talks on breaking coronavirus package stalemate MORE (Ohio) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) each have more than $4 million. Portman, fundraising vice-chairman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has raised the most of any Republican in his freshman class.

Two others — Sens. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkLiberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP On the Trail: Senate GOP hopefuls tie themselves to Trump Biden campaign releases video to explain 'what really happened in Ukraine' MORE (Ill.) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonRon Johnson subpoenas documents from FBI director as part of Russia origins probe Blumenthal calls for declassification of materials detailing Russian threat to US elections Democrats try to force Trump to boost medical supplies production MORE (Wis.) — have yet to pick up the fundraising pace.

Kirk is arguably the most vulnerable of the five, running in a reliably blue state during a presidential year with former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris favored as Biden edges closer to VP pick Ron Johnson subpoenas documents from FBI director as part of Russia origins probe Juan Williams: Older voters won't forgive Trump for COVID MORE potentially atop the ticket. He’s only stocked away about $740,000, but has been recovering from a stroke in 2012. 

A Kirk aide told The Hill that the senator is “very much aware that he’s the only Republican that has been elected statewide [to federal office] in Illinois” since 1998. The aide indicated, however, his fundraising pace should pick up soon, as he’s “very much gearing up” for 2016. 

Johnson has the least of all the vulnerable senators in the bank, only $370,000 cash on hand. But he invested nearly $9 million into his own campaign in 2010, more than half of the more than $15 million his campaign spent on that fight. According to campaign aide Mark Stevens, he could easily self-fund again.

Stevens pointed to Johnson’s 2010 assurance “he would make sure that his campaign spent what was necessary to be able to communicate with the voters of the state” as a potential predictor of what Johnson might spend next cycle.

Democrats are also gleeful at the prospect of Republican retirements in potentially competitive states like Iowa, a swing state that went blue the last two cycles, and Arizona, which Democrats think could turn purple due to its growing Hispanic population.

Arizona Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBill Maher delivers mock eulogy for Trump Hillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column CNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' MORE, who would be 80 in 2016, has also hinted at retirement. He has $1.18 million cash on hand.

If McCain does run, he’s likely to face both a primary and a credible Democratic opponent. An aide said he’s already raising money for 2016, with his first reelection fundraiser scheduled for next month. The prospect of a primary challenger is weighing heavily on his mind.

“I think he feels like he starts off in a good position, but you’ve seen primary challenges; you’ve seen other folks that get complacent — senior members in recent years that have gotten complacent — and that’s the last thing he’s going to do,” the McCain aide said.

If the political tide in 2016 turns significantly in favor of Democrats, the party believes it could even put some typically red or purple states on the map. At the top of that list are North Carolina, where Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrSenate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag Hillicon Valley: Google extending remote work policy through July 2021 | Intel community returns final Russia report to Senate committee after declassification | Study finds election officials vulnerable to cyberattacks Intel community returns final Russia report volume to Senate after declassification review MORE has just over $900,000 cash on hand, and Alaska, where Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiOn The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns MORE could also face a primary challenge and has $640,000 in the bank. 

Still, the prospects for those races in 2016 depend in large part on the party’s success in those states this cycle. Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's job approval erodes among groups that powered his 2016 victory MORE of North Carolina and Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world MORE of Alaska are both top GOP targets, and their losses could considerably cool any Democratic excitement in those states. Those ongoing races could be another reason Murkowski and Burr haven’t kicked their fundraising into gear.

That’s also why Sen. John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick The Hill's Coronavirus Report: San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus Artistic Director Tim Seelig says choirs are dangerous; Pence says, 'We have saved lives' 7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports MORE of Arkansas has only $84,000 in his war chest, his chief of staff Helen Tolar told The Hill, and he is running in 2016.  Democratic Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Tom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 MORE is a top GOP target, and Boozman has been working to support GOP candidates in the state. 

“At this point, our efforts are focused on 2014 and what we’ve got to do to win,” she said. “When it comes time to focus on us, we’ll focus on us.”

But his challenge might be the steepest of the other deep-red state Republicans in 2016. The Clintons remain popular in Arkansas from the former president’s time as governor, and with Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket, the race is likely to be extremely competitive if Democrats find a solid candidate.

Tolar said that possibility is on their radar, admitting that “the Clinton brand is a known and well-liked commodity in the state of Arkansas.” 

Though Democrats have an easier map in 2016, Republicans still plan to go on offense on a handful of races, and most Democratic incumbents will have to pick up their fundraising pace as well. All but four up for reelection in 2016 have less than a million cash on hand. 

And while the party’s likely top two GOP targets, Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetExpanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously How Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 Tom Cotton rips NY Times for Chinese scientist op-ed criticizing US coronavirus response MORE (Colo.) and Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' Obama calls filibuster 'Jim Crow relic,' backs new Voting Rights Act bill MORE (Nev.), have $1 and $1.5 million cash on hand, respectively, that’s nowhere close to the amount they’ll need to defend their seats. Colorado, while traditionally blue, remains a swing state, and Republicans could spend tens of millions trying to take down Reid.

—This piece was updated to correct the year Illinois last elected a Republican in a statewide federal race. 


 Senate Candidate Cash-On-Hand Through End of 2013

Republicans: 

Richard Shelby (Ala.) $17,848,174

Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) $640,015

John McCain (Ariz.) $1,186,686

John Boozman (Ark.) $84,074

Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioChina sanctioning Rubio, Cruz in retaliatory move over Hong Kong The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Negotiators signal relief bill stuck, not dead PPP application window closes after coronavirus talks deadlock  MORE  (Fla.) $2,301,084

Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonMatt Lieberman faces calls to drop out of Georgia Senate race over 'racist and discriminatory' tropes in 2018 book Sabato's Crystal Ball shifts Iowa Senate race to 'toss-up,' Georgia toward GOP WNBA players wear 'Vote Warnock' shirts in support of Loeffler Democratic challenger MORE (Ga.) $2,081,215

Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoTop GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations Chamber of Commerce, banking industry groups call on Senate to pass corporate diversity bill Senate panel advances Trump Fed nominee who recently supported gold standard MORE (Idaho) $3,264,244

Mark Kirk  (Ill.) $739,036

Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTrump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet America's divide widens: Ignore it no longer Trump gives Grenell his Cabinet chair after he steps down MORE (Ind.) $506,797

Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump puts trade back on 2020 agenda McConnell goes hands-off on coronavirus relief bill GOP chairmen hit back at accusation they are spreading disinformation with Biden probe MORE (Iowa) $1,601,439

Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranTrump tests GOP loyalty with election tweet and stimulus strategy VOA visa decision could hobble Venezuela coverage As ADA anniversary nears, lawmakers express concern about changes to captioned telephone service MORE (Kan.) $620,625

Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump-backed Hagerty wins Tennessee GOP Senate primary Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's visit to battleground Ohio overshadowed by coronavirus MORE (Ky.) $1,715,429

David VitterDavid Bruce VitterBottom line Bottom line The biggest political upsets of the decade MORE (La.) $1,098,653

Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSkepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal GOP expects Senate to be in session next week without coronavirus deal House Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections MORE (Mo.) $734,264

Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) $1,286,990

Richard Burr (N.C.) $910,118

John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenBottom line Bipartisan senators seek funding for pork producers forced to euthanize livestock House Republicans threaten pushback on Saudi Arabia amid oil market slump MORE (N.D.) $688,747

Rob Portman (Ohio) $4,457,699

Pat Toomey (Pa.) $4,045,182

John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump says he'll accept nomination from either White House or Gettysburg Meadows says he wants Trump nomination speech 'miles and miles away' from White House The Hill's 12:30 Report: White House, Dems debate coronavirus relief package MORE (S.D.) $9,065,373

Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOvernight Defense: Air Force general officially becomes first African American service chief | Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure | State Department's special envoy for Iran is departing the Trump administration Senators introduce bill to block Trump armed drone sale measure Trump signs major conservation bill into law MORE (Utah) $229,777

Ron Johnson (Wis.) $369,888

Democrats:

Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerBottom line Polls show big bounce to Biden ahead of Super Tuesday Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday MORE (Calif.) $293,305

Michael Bennet (Colo.) $1,003,067

Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) $303,439

Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiForeign policy congressional committees need to call more women experts Lobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE (Md.) $985,021

Harry Reid (Nev.) $1,528,717

Charles SchumerChuck SchumerTo save the Postal Service, bring it online White House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Schumer declines to say whether Trump executive orders are legal: They don't 'do the job' MORE (N.Y.) $11,433,001

Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns MORE (Ore.) $776,729

Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Vermont has a chance to show how bipartisanship can tackle systemic racism MORE (Vt.) $1,492,246

Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayPelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive House approves two child care bills aimed at pandemic GOP, Democratic relief packages B apart on vaccine funding MORE (Wash.) $747,504