Six Senate candidates to watch in the dash for cash
1. With the second fundraising quarter having ended officially on Thursday, the holiday weekend will be anything but restful for campaign committee staffers waiting nervously to see how their candidates performed (or didn't).
Smart political strategists view this quarter as the most crucial of the election cycle; with four months left until the November election, it's now-or-never time for challengers and open seat candidates. Fall too far behind now and there's no reasonable expectation of closing the financial gap before the fall.
We'll have a full winners and losers post once the reports trickle in next week but, for now, here's a look at six Senate candidates with much to gain (or lose) in the chase for campaign cash:
* Charlie Crist (I): The Florida governor was among the best fundraisers in the country as a Republican -- collecting better than $10 million and banking $7.5 million for his Senate bid through April. But, Crist's fundraising had slowed considerably over the last six months as polling showed former state House Speaker Marco Rubio catching and then surging past him in the Republican primary. Crist's party switch -- he is now running as an independent -- was a direct result of the fact that he no longer had a viable path to the nomination. But, as a man without a party, where does Crist's cash come from?
* Lee Fisher (D): Fisher, the Ohio lieutenant governor, has consistently been one of the most disappointing fundraisers on either side of the aisle. Fisher's numbers through mid-April -- $3.9 million raised, $906,000 on hand through mid-April -- weren't good and didn't take into account all of the spending he did in advance of the state's May 4 primary. Having lost his second campaign manager earlier this month, it seems unlikely that Fisher turned his financial ship around. And, if he didn't, the fundraising disparity between he and former Rep. Rob Portman (R) will start to matter -- Portman is already on television -- in the coming weeks.
*Andrew Romanoff (D)/Ken Buck (R): Both Romanoff, who is challenging appointed Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D) in the Aug. 10 primary, and Buck who is facing off against establishment favorite and former Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton on the same day, have a path to victory. (Buck's path is far cleared than Romanoff's.) Neither man has demonstrated much fundraising clout to date, however. To take advantage of the "outsider" sentiment in the electorate, both men need more than the $500,000 or so they had on hand at the end of April.
* Joe Sestak (D): Sestak's ouster of Sen. Arlen Specter in the May 18 Democratic primary proved that money isn't everything -- particularly in an intraparty squabble. But, in a state the size of Pennsylvania where communicating via television is no cheap trick, Sestak needs to have had a strong six weeks to close out the quarter since former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) has proven to be the surprise fundraising star on the Republican side of the aisle. (He had nearly $5 million on hand at the end of April.) What Sestak has going for him? He proved during his House races that he is a dogged fundraiser.
* Sharron Angle (R): Angle, a former state Assemblywoman, rode a wave of conservative discontent with the better funded candidates to victory in the June 8 primary. But, Angle's $132,000 on hand as of mid-May was dwarfed by the $9 million Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) showed in the bank at the same time. Angle will never catch Reid in the cash dash but national Republicans have spent the three weeks since her primary campaign trying to get her more ready for primetime. A solid chunk of money raised in an obviously abbreviated time frame would be a major step in the right direction for Angle.
2. Massachusetts Treasurer Tim Cahill (I) is up with his first TV and radio ads in the gubernatorial race, an attempt to re-start a candidacy stunted in its infancy by a barrage of ads paid for the Republican Governors Association.
"The first commercial of the governor's race, Washington insiders attacked me while I was working for you," Cahill says in the new ad.
Cahill also seeks to differentiate himself from Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and businessman Charlie Baker (R); "one of my opponents fights for big government, the other a health care executive," says Cahill.
That strategy of differentiation continues in Cahill's radio ad. "The Democrat has a problem with big government and the Republican has a problem with the Big Dig," Cahill says.
Cahill spokesperson Amy Birmingham said that the new TV ad buy, which is in the "six figures" and will be on the air for close to two weeks "isn't exactly a response" to the RGA ad; rather it's a chance for Cahill to re-introduce himself to voters.
Birmingham acknowledged that "it's obvious" the RGA ads "were effective," noting that Cahill was in second place before the ads aired. But she discounted the accuracy of a recent Boston Globe poll showing that Cahill had slipped into a distant third with 9 percent to Patrick's 38 percent and Baker's 31 percent. Birmingham said that Cahill's internal polling shows him at 16 to 20 percent.
While he has slipped in the polls, Cahill's cash-on-hand makes him a force to be reckoned with: at the end of the first quarter, he had $3.4 million in his war chest, compared to $2.3 million for Baker and $1 million for Patrick.
3. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) is finding the corruption trial of former state GOP Chairman Jim Greer to be quite inconvenient for his Senate bid.
On Thursday, Crist -- and the rest of us -- learned that the trial would begin in October, just weeks before the November election. And the governor was also forced to comment on allegations that a state party retreat was men-only but did include women who were paid to be there.
State party executive committee member Beth Kigel had told investigators that she had heard about the trip to the Bahamas, where women connected to the state party weren't invited but where other women "were involved and paid." Crist called the idea "absurdly false" but couldn't say whether only men were invited on the trip.
"Crist says no hookers on Bahamas trip," blared the headline on the St. Petersburg Times blog.
Polling suggests Crist is likely to be a slight favorite over former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) when the open seat Senate race begins in earnest after Labor Day. (Democrats will pick between Rep. Kendrick Meek and billionaire businessman Jeff Greene on Aug. 24)
The timing of the Greer trial is less than ideal for Crist. Greer was the governor's handpicked party chairman and it's hard to imagine that this is the last time that Greer's time at the head of the organization will force Crist into an uncomfortable position.
4. Wealthy businessman Bill Binnie (R) is up with a new TV ad in the New Hampshire Senate primary touting his job-creating credentials.
"Bill Binnie has a plan to put America back to work," the narrator of the 30-second ad says, emphasizing Binnie's plans to reduce payroll taxes, cut spending and promote free trade.
Binnie announced yesterday that he raised more than $400,000 in the second quarter. That follows on a strong first quarter for Binnie, who had $1.8 million on hand as of late March. (Binnie has loaned his campaign $3 million).
He has used his personal spending to flood the airwaves with ads that paint him as an outsider to the political process, a potentially potent message in an electoral environment like this one.
Fellow businessman Jim Bender (R), who is also running for the Senate nomination but has been largely overshadowed by Binnie, estimated that he currently has $1.3 million cash on hand, having donated $1 million of his own money to the race last quarter.
The free-spending by Binnie and, to a lesser extent, Bender, complicate former state Attorney General Kelly Ayotte's path to the Republican nomination on Sept. 14.
But, polling shows Ayotte, the establishment favorite, maintaining her lead. She is focusing her rhetoric (and her ads) on Rep. Paul Hodes, the certain Democratic nominee. Hodes has been hitting Ayotte over a Ponzi scheme that took place during her tenure as the state's top cop.
5. If it's Friday, it's time for a double serving of Fix live chats!
Then stick around for our weekly "Live Fix" chat in which we spend an hour taking questions from Fixistas on any and every topic under the political sun.
What better way to ease into the holiday weekend then spending your day with the Fix? See you there.
With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake
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