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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 12/ 3/2010

Campaign committees amass mountains of debt

By Chris Cillizza

1. In the waning days of the 2010 midterms, campaign committees in both parties amassed millions of dollars in debt as they made last-minute decision in races across the country, according to reports filed late Thursday night with the Federal Election Commission.

Both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee showed upwards of $15 million of debt in financial statements covering expenditures and disbursements from Oct. 14 to Nov. 22.

And, both spent more -- $24.7 million spent by RNC, $30.3 million spent by DNC -- than they raised in the reporting period.

But, while the DNC ended November with $9.7 million in the bank, the RNC showed just $1.9 million on hand. That meager cash total -- particularly when compared to how much debt the RNC is carrying -- affirms the "cashflow challenge" that the committee's chief administrative officer acknowledged in emails earlier this week.

It remains to be seen how the RNC's cash position will impact Chairman Michael Steele's decision on whether or not to seek a second term early next year.

On the House side, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ended the period with $19.5 million in debt and just $3 million on hand. The National Republican Congressional Committee showed $12 million debt and $4.7 million in the bank.

For the month (or so) covered by these "post-general" reports, the DCCC spent an eye-popping $55 million as compared to $31 million for the NRCC. That spending edge in the closing days of the campaign did little to alter the results; Republicans picked up 63 House seats and re-took the majority.

(The DCCC also vastly outraised the NRCC in the period -- collecting $33 million to just $13 million for the GOP.)

Neither the National Republican Senatorial Committee nor the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had released their fundraising reports as of press time

There's nothing new about the campaign committees ending elections with debt. But the size of the debts carried by the committees this time around speaks to the challenges posed with a widened playing field in the House and Senate in the final weeks of the campaign.

2. Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is widely regarded as a potential challenger to Sen. Jon Kyl (R) in 2012, but thanks to a difficult 2010 reelection bid, she starts out the 2012 cycle in tough financial shape.

According to FEC reports filed Thursday, Giffords was forced to spent down nearly all of her $2 million war chest at the end of the 2010 campaign, leaving her with just more than $300,000 in the bank for her 2012 campaign - be it against Kyl or for reelection to the 8th district.

Giffords saw her funds depleted more than any other potential 2012 Senate candidate, but she wasn't alone. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who some see as a potential challenger to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in 2012, had to spend nearly all of the $2.3 million he raised this cycle and was left with just $140,000 in the bank.

Others were able to stockpile cash while they cruised to reelection.

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) has $702,000 left over in case he wants to challenge Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). That's much better than Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), who ran in the special election primary last year and had just $144,000 in the bank as of Nov. 22.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) had $847,000 on hand for a possible challenge to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio); Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) had $179,000 in the bank in case he runs a primary against Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah); Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-Fla.) had $424,000 for a race against Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.); and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) had $594,000 for a campaign against Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

3. South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Thursday became the latest person to float the idea that outgoing Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold may launch a primary challenge against President Obama in 2012.

"I like Russ, and he may run against Obama in 2012," Graham told conservative radio show host Laura Ingraham.

There has been some speculation since Feingold lost his re-election bid last month that the three-term senator may challenge mount a challenge to Obama from the left. Most of the chatter has centered on Feingold's Election Night concession speech, in which he told supporters, "So, it's on to the next fight. It's on to the next battle. It's on to 2012. And it is on to our next adventure - forward!"

Feingold has repeatedly pushed back against such rumors, and his office again issued a statement Thursday night unequivocally ruling out a White House bid.

"Senator Feingold is not running for President in 2012," a Feingold spokesperson said. "Any suggestion he is thinking of running, planning to run, or interested in running is untrue. Senator Feingold is a strong supporter of President Barack Obama and wants to see him reelected in 2012."

4. Republican John Robitaille came up short this year in his bid to succeed term-limited Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri (R), placing second to Gov.-elect Lincoln Chafee (I). But the former GOP nominee has already set his sights on a new goal -- a challenge to freshman Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D).

"I haven't made up my mind yet, and I'm not going to until after the first of the year," Robitaille told, adding that a run against Whitehouse -- as well as potential run for governor in 2014 -- "is definitely on the table."

Robitaille defied expectations when he placed second in the three-way race for governor, outpacing the Democratic nominee, state Treasurer Frank Caprio. Robitaille had long been polling in third place, but Caprio alienated himself from liberal voters at the eleventh hour by declaring that President Obama could "take his endorsement and really shove it" after the president declined to take sides in the race.

National Republicans -- including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie parachuted into the Ocean State on Robitaille's behalf during the campaign.

Should Robitaille decide to get into the race, his increased name ID from his 2010 run would likely make him a formidable opponent against Whitehouse. But, he would not benefit from the same sort of three-way dynamic that ruled in the gubernatorial race this year.

5. If it's Friday, it's time for the "Live Fix" chat -- an hour's worth of questions and answers about politics, coffee, sports music and anything else you can think of.

The festivities begin at 11 a.m.. You can submit your questions in advance or just follow along in real time.

See you there!

By Chris Cillizza  | December 3, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: Who will leave the Senate in 2012?

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