Money Matters: Grading the Campaign Finance Reports
The Fix, as regular readers know, was something of a nerd back in our school days. We loved the work, the reading and -- especially -- the grades.
Yes, the grades. Of course, we learned later in life that a grade was nothing more than an arbitrary rating of our performance by an overworked teacher who brought his or her own biases to the grading process. (We kid -- sort of.)
Still . . . old habits die hard. And, like them or hate them, grades are still currency in our culture.
So, when we began to sift through the mass of campaign finance reports filed by candidates for federal (and state) office over the last week -- covering fundraising from April 1 to June 30 -- it occurred to us that the best way to boil down the best and the worst of the last three months was via grades.
Since we always hated the dreaded "B+" or "C-" -- we once received a "B+-" on a paper (not kidding) -- we have simplified the grading system for our own purposes: candidates received either an "A" (outstanding), a "C" (so-so) or an "F" (bad).
And away we go!
Roy Blunt: Blunt's $1.44 million haul over the last three months represents, as we wrote, the most clear turnaround in a Senate candidacy in recent memory. Blunt now leads Secretary of State Robin Carnahan in cash on hand and is back in the game to keep the Show Me State in the Republican column in 2010.
Jack Conway: Kentucky's attorney general made clear over the last three months that he is the favorite for the Democratic nomination in the Bluegrass State. Conway outraised Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, his primary rival, by more than $1 million between April 1 and June 30 -- a stunning achievement.
Charlie Crist: We almost broke our prohibition against pluses and minuses in our grading system for the Florida governor who collected $4.3 million over the last three months. That sort of showing -- even in spite of the high expectations for Crist -- comes very close to meriting an "A+". Crist's cash is almost certainly determinative in his primary race against former state House Speaker Marco Rubio who raised just $340,000 in the same period of time.
Bill Haslam: The mayor of Knoxville raised $3.8 million in the first six months of 2009 in his bid for the open Tennessee governor's seat -- a massive total, particularly when one considers that he faces a primary fight against Rep. Zach Wamp and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsay.
Rob Portman: Portman continues to prove himself as one of the most able fundraisers running for Senate in 2010. The former Ohio Republican congressman brought in $1.7 million between April 1 and June 30 and ended last month with a whopping $4.3 million on hand.
Harry Reid: The Senate majority leader takes his politics seriously -- as evidenced by the $3.25 million he raised (and the $7.3 million he salted away) by the end of June. Reid is at or near the top of Republicans' target list in 2010 and, knowing that, he has done everything he possibly could to make the bar for entry for a serious GOP candidate very high. Sources suggest Rep. Dean Heller is still actively considering a bid but his $255,000 in the bank means he would start the race in a major financial hole.
Mitt Romney: As we wrote this morning, Romney's $1.6 million take via his Free and Strong America PAC over the first six months of the year makes him the clear fundraising powerhouse of potential 2012 candidates. And, his willingness to dole money out to candidates and states with 2012 influence should clear up any doubt about whether or not he is running.
Mike Castle: The Delaware Republican did nothing over the last three months to signal that he is going to run for the First State's open Senate seat in 2010. Castle raised just $125,000 during that time although he still has $861,000 sitting in the bank -- solid seed money if he decides to run. Democrats are almost certain to nominate Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden who remains in Iraq and, obviously, has not raised any money for his potential campaign.
Kirsten Gillibrand: Senate Democrats lauded Gillibrand's $1.5 million quarter as a stunning success -- especially when compared to the $578,000 raised by Rep. Carolyn Maloney who is challenging her in a primary next year. But, remember that Gillibrand is not only raising money in one of the best donor states in the country -- New York -- but also has the full weight of the White House as well as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) behind her candidacy. Add to those facts that Gillibrand has a reputation as among the fiercest of fundraisers in the Democratic party and we assumed she might crest more than $2 million raised. Is Gillibrand still the favorite in next year's primary? Absolutely. Did she put away Maloney over the last three months? Absolutely not.
Trey Grayson: On the one hand, Grayson, Kentucky's Republican secretary of state, raised more than $600,000 in less than two months of active fundraising. On the other, he still seems unwilling to simply acknowledge the obvious: he needs to declare his candidacy to push Sen. Jim Bunning (R) out of the race.
Bill Ritter: The Democratic governor of Colorado raised just $400,000 over the past three months, a total sure to embolden Republicans who are becoming increasingly convinced that Ritter is vulnerable in 2010.
Jennifer Brunner: The Ohio secretary of state put together her second straight underwhelming fundraising quarter by bringing in just $228,000 over the last three months. Brunner's low total is all the more remarkable when considering that a series of polls show the Democratic Senate primary between her and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher is a pure toss up. Fisher's $900,000 raised is not exactly a blow-the-doors-off number but when compared to Brunner, he looks like Charlie Crist. Brunner may not be long in the primary race.
Corrine Brown: Supporters of the Florida congresswoman insist that she is looking seriously at running for the open seat being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez (R) in 2010. The $44,000 she raised over the last three months and the $40,000 she had on hand at the end of June suggest otherwise. Compare Brown's paltry fundraising to the nearly $1.2 million Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) raised for his own Florida Senate bid and it's clear that Brown has a long way to go to be taken seriously as a statewide candidate.
Jim Bunning: The Kentucky Republican brought in $302,000 over the last three months -- the lowest amount raised for any senator seeking reelection in 2010. Bunning's lackluster fundraising coupled with his truculence about acknowledging the obvious -- he cannot hold this seat next November -- ensures him a failing grade.
Colorado Republicans: Neither Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier ($140,000 raised) nor Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck ($332,000 raised) did
much over the last three months to take advantage of the vulnerability of appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) who brought in $1.2 million over the same time frame.
July 16, 2009; 1:37 PM ET
Categories: Governors , House , Senate
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