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Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020

 Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020
Incumbent senators are sitting on a combined total of more than $77 million as they stockpile campaign cash ahead of next year’s elections.
 
Fourteen incumbent senators pulled in more than $1 million in the last quarter, and eleven now have at least $3 million in the bank, according to forms filed with the Federal Election Commission this week and analyzed by The Hill.
 
The fundraising hauls are just the beginning of what is likely to be a pitched battle for control of the Senate. Republicans are defending 22 seats next year, while Democrats have 12 seats on the table. 
 
Republicans hold 53 seats in the Senate, meaning Democrats would have to pick up a net of at least three seats and the White House to win back the majority, or four seats to hold control regardless of who wins the presidency.
 
The fundraising results offer the earliest hints at the contours of next year’s battlefield.
 
Among those who raised the most money were Sen. John CornynJohn CornynTop GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions MORE (R-Texas), who pulled in $2 million in the last three months; Sens. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol McSally's final floor speech: 'I gave it my all, and I left it all on the field' MORE (R-Ariz.) and Cory GardnerCory GardnerHillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities Democrats vent to Schumer over Senate majority failure MORE (R-Colo.), each of whom raised about $2 million; and Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTeam Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Hogan 'embarrassed that more people' in the GOP 'aren't speaking up' against Trump MORE (R-Maine), who pulled in $1.5 million. All four Republicans are likely to be top Democratic targets next year.
 
Both McSally and Gardner have drawn challengers who have already posted impressive fundraising numbers of their own.
 
In Arizona, former astronaut Mark Kelly (D) pulled in more than $4.1 million and has $3.2 million in the bank. In Colorado, former state Sen. Mike Johnston (D) raised $1.8 million in his first weeks on the trail, though he faces an increasingly crowded Democratic primary field.
 
On the Democratic side, Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.) pulled in $1.6 million. He begins what is likely to be an uphill battle for reelection with $3.1 million in the bank in a deeply conservative state that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE carried easily in 2016.
 
The only candidate who has both announced a bid against Jones and filed a report with the FEC, Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneLawmakers grill Pentagon over Trump's Germany drawdown Bottom line Jerry Carl wins GOP Alabama runoff to replace Rep. Bradley Byrne MORE (R), ended the quarter with $2 million on hand, though he will have to spend much of that money on what is likely to be a contested Republican primary.
 
 
“People in potentially competitive races really have to use every day to move the ball forward for their race, and that means fundraising, press, politics,” said Martha McKenna, a Democratic strategist and former senior operative at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “If you’re headed for a tough 2020, taking fundraising very seriously is the top of your list.”
 
Political observers use the early numbers to gauge just how seriously a sitting senator takes his or her reelection bid.
 
A strong quarter is unlikely to dissuade a challenger from running, though a weak quarter can be an early red flag that a senator is taking it easy during a crucial stretch.
 
“If you’re an incumbent and you have a bad quarter it shows how unprepared you are for what’s coming your way. This should be a quarter where you can knock it out of the park,” said Rob Jesmer, a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a top adviser to Cornyn. “You realize right away who has a good operation and who doesn’t.”
 
Cornyn has the largest campaign bank account of any sitting senator, at more than $7.4 million. Two fellow Republicans — Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamMedia and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk Hackers love a bad transition The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump campaign files for Wis. recount l Secretaries of state fume at Trump allegations l Biden angered over transition delay MORE (R-S.C.) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop aide: Biden expected to visit Georgia in push to boost Ossoff, Warnock Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' MORE (R-Ky.) — narrowly outraised Cornyn over the last three months. Graham has $4.6 million in the bank, and McConnell has more than $5.5 million on hand.
 
First-term Sens. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Memo: Trump plows ahead with efforts to overturn election More conservatives break with Trump over election claims Peggy Noonan: 'Bogus dispute' by Trump 'doing real damage' MORE (R-Iowa), Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanTrump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview MORE (R-Alaska) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesRick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight MORE (R-Mont.), all of whom captured Democratic seats six years ago, all raised a little more than $1.1 million and had more than $2 million on hand by the end of March, including transfers from joint fundraising accounts.
 
The initial results can also serve as an indication that some long-serving senators are considering retirement, rather than another six years in office. Already, Sens. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsTrump's controversial Fed nominee stalled after Senate setback Business groups scramble to forge ties amid race for House Agriculture chair Republicans hold on to competitive Kansas House seat MORE (R-Kan.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderDemocrats gear up for last oversight showdown with Trump Trump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end GOP lawmaker patience runs thin with Trump tactics MORE (R-Tenn.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHouse Democrats push Biden to pick Haaland as next Interior secretary OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Haaland being vetted by Biden team for Interior Secretary | Progressive group slams Biden White House pick over tie to fossil fuel industry | Green groups sue over Arctic drilling plans Haaland being vetted by Biden team for Interior secretary MORE (D-N.M.) have said they will not run for reelection.
 
Five senators raised less than half a million dollars over the last three months. Four of them — Sens. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziRepublican Cynthia Lummis wins Wyoming Senate election Bottom line Chamber of Commerce endorses McSally for reelection MORE (R-Wyo.), Jim RischJim Elroy RischGOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee Risch wins reelection in Idaho MORE (R-Idaho), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeHouse Democrats back slower timeline for changing Confederate base names Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee Overnight Defense: Trump orders troop drawdown in Afghanistan and Iraq | Key Republicans call Trump plan a 'mistake' MORE (R-Okla.) and Jack ReedJack ReedTop Democrat calls Trump's Afghan drawdown 'the right policy decision' as others warn of 'mistake' Overnight Defense: Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper | Worries grow about rudderless post-election Pentagon | Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up | Pelosi says Esper firing shows Trump intent on sowing 'chaos' Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up MORE (D-R.I.) — have not formally declared they are running for new terms.
 
All four would likely skate to reelection; Enzi, Risch and Inhofe represent safely red states, though none of the three Republicans have formally said they will seek another term.
 
Inhofe’s campaign said the Oklahoma Republican had actually raised more this quarter, $334,000, than he had at this point six years ago. 
 
Reed’s Rhode Island is deeply Democratic, and he will attend a campaign fundraiser with Walt Disney Co. executives this week. 
 
The fifth senator lagging on the fundraising circuit is Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), who has just $217,000 in the bank. She has just begun to rebuild her campaign account after winning a special election to fill the final two years of her predecessor’s term.
 
Some senators who may face tough races started off the cycle at a slower fundraising clip.
 
Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTeam Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection North Carolina's Mark Walker expected to announce Senate bid MORE (R-N.C.) raised a little more than $1 million in the last three months, and he has $2.9 million on hand; Tillis’s home state is likely to be a presidential battleground next year, and North Carolina voters have made a recent habit of booting one-term incumbents like Elizabeth Dole (R), Kay HaganKay Ruthven Hagan10 under-the-radar races to watch in November The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic Unity Taskforce unveils party platform recommendations Democrats awash with cash in battle for Senate MORE (D), Lauch Faircloth (R) and Terry Sanford (D).
 
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) raised $1.8 million in the first quarter of the year, and ended with more than $3.3 million in the bank. Perdue, who gave his own campaign $3.9 million six years ago, faces the prospect of a challenge from former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D), who has built her own network of national donors.
 
Perdue’s situation is like many of his colleagues, on both sides of the aisle: His most prominent potential challenger has not yet made a decision about whether to jump in the race, underscoring just how long there is to go before voters have their say.
 
Prominent candidates have not made final decisions in states like Alabama, Michigan, Texas, Kentucky, Iowa or North Carolina.
 
But, the Democratic strategist McKenna said, now is the time for candidates to begin sucking up cash. The battle for the White House has already begun in earnest, offering a shiny and enticing distraction to donors who might otherwise pay attention to down-ballot contests.
 
“This is the window, because the presidential’s going to start sucking up all the attention,” McKenna said.