Senate Republicans' open seat money edge
By Aaron Blake
Republican candidates are continuing to dominate financially in key open seat Senate races while Democratic incumbents remain a fundraising bulwark for the party's majority status with less than four months left until election day.
Of the open seats considered toss-ups by the Cook Political Report, Republican candidates have significantly outraised their Democratic counter parts in four of seven races in the year's second quarter. (In the three others -- Illinois, Missouri and New Hampshire -- not all reports are in yet.)
The most egregious example of open-seat money woes for Democrats is in Ohio where former Rep. Rob Portman (R) raised $1.5 million more than Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) over the past three months and ended June with an $8 million -- yes, you read that right -- cash on hand edge.
While Ohio is the extreme, the open seat situation doesn't get much better for Democrats in other key races:
* In Florida, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) announced Monday that he raised an astronomical $4.5 million in the second quarter -- $3.5 million more than likely Democratic nominee Rep. Kendrick Meek brought in over the same time period. Gov. Charlie Crist (R), who is running as an independent, has yet to report his second quarter fundraising total.
* In Pennsylvania, former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) raised $3.1 million while Rep. Joe Sestak, following his Democratic primary upset of Sen. Arlen Specter in May, raked in $2 million.
* In Illinois, Rep. Mark Kirk (R) appears a good bet to again outraise state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D). Kirk bested Giannoulias by $1 million in the first quarter, and the Democrat has yet to respond to Kirk's announcement of $2.3 million raised in the second quarter -- a stunning sum given that the Republican nominee endured a disastrous month (or so) of press regarding misstatements in his military resume.
The best open seat news for Democrats so far in the second quarter comes from Kentucky where state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) announced today that he had raised $1 million in the quarter and self-funded another $400,000 to get his fundraising re-started following a May primary win. Conway's $1.4 million haul outpaced ophthalmologist Rand Paul's $1.1 million raised -- albeit not by all that much.
The current financial landscape makes the reports from Democratic candidates in open seat races in Connecticut, Missouri, New Hampshire, Delaware and Indiana all the more important.
Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D-Mo.) has been a bright spot in the Democratic open seat world -- $5.4 million raised, $2.8 million on hand -- but still lagged slightly behind Rep. Roy Blunt (R) in each category at the end of the first quarter.
Ditto Indiana Rep. Brad Ellsworth who, as of mid-April, had $962,000 in the bank as compared to former Sen. Dan Coats' (R) unimpressive $292,000.
Democrats have high hopes for Newcastle County Executive Chris Coons (D) but he starts in a significant financial hole against Rep. Mike Castle (R). As of the start of the second quarter, Castle had $2.3 million in the bank while Coons showed $591,000 in the bank.
The financial advantages Senate Republicans enjoy in open seats coupled with what looks likely to be a good national environment for the party suggest that the GOP is well positioned to make gains in the states where no incumbent is running for re-election. (Worth noting: Five of the seven "toss up" races as rated by the Cook Report are currently held by Republicans, limiting somewhat their ability to make major gains.)
While Republicans should make gains in open seats, the financial strength of Democratic incumbents suggest they won't be pushovers as the GOP seeks to significantly narrow the nine-seat majority Senate Democrats currently enjoy.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) is likely to enjoy a massive fundraising edge over former state Assemblywomen Sharron Angle (R), while it's not yet clear whether Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.) can raise the money to compete with a candidate against Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.).
In Colorado, appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) has lapped the field in fundraising and California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) continues on a financial tear although former HP executive Carly Fiorina's self-funding abilities make the incumbent's edge less pronounced.
Republicans will also be training a close eye on former Washington gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, who will be filing his first fundraising report after getting a very late start on running against Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Murray had $5.9 million cash on hand at the end of the first quarter. (UPDATE: Rossi reported $1.4 million raised late on Tuesday.) The same goes for Wisconsin where businessman Ron Johnson (R) is untested and faces Sen. Russ Feingold who ended March with $4.3 in the bank.
To win back the majority -- and we'll have a more detailed post on that prospect tomorrow -- Republicans need to not only win a majority of competitive open seats, which, financially at least, they are well positioned to do but also need to make inroads among the far better funded Democratic incumbents. That will likely be the focus of the third -- and most important -- fundraising quarter of the year for those GOP challenger candidates and could well determine just how big Republican gains will be this fall.
July 13, 2010; 4:16 PM ET
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