Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Heller's fundraising numbers.
The second quarter fundraising numbers of the presidential contenders are drawing much attention, but just as telling are the Senate candidates' fundraising numbers, which at this point begin to separate the contenders from the pretenders.
At Hotline On Call, we've compiled the top things to watch as we prepare for the Senate fundraising reports, with candidates required to file by July 15.
9. The showdown in Nevada. When both Democrat Shelley Berkley and Republican Dean Heller were members of the House last quarter, they raised approximately the same amount -- Berkley pulled in $695,000, while Heller raised $672,000. Heller had a strong start to his Senate race; after announcing he would run in mid-March, he raised $320,000 in the quarter's final two weeks.
Berkley, as her first quarter numbers showed, is no fundraising slouch. She's getting help from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and has connections with the national Jewish community. If she outraises Heller again, it bodes well for her campaign - even though she'll have to spend some of it to fend off a primary from Byron Georgiou.
8. The rookie versus the senator in Ohio. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is expected to have another solid fundraising quarter, but the more telling number will be from his likely Republican challenger, state Treasurer Josh Mandel. Mandel formed a Senate campaign committee before formally announcing his campaign so he could start raising money early on.
Mandel has always been able to raise big bucks in his Ohio races for Treasurer and state legislature, but hasn't tested his mettle at the national level. He's held a fundraiser last month with national Republican heavyweights (tickets ran from $500-$2,500), so we're expecting a respectable quarterly haul from him.
7. House members looking for a promotion
. Along with Berkley, many other members of Congress are considering bids - with their fundraising numbers a telltale sign of their future ambitions.
Democratic Reps. Tammy Baldwin
and Ron Kind
have been preparing for Senate campaigns in Wisconsin, with Baldwin even ramping up her fundraising pitch
If one posts a particularly strong number, it would give them good buzz heading into a campaign launch.
Also, EMILY's List's warning shot endorsement
of Rep. Mazie Hirono
, D-Hawaii, looked like it was meant to scare away Rep. Colleen Hanabusa
, D-Hawaii, from launching a bid, but it will be interesting to see if she's been aggressively raising funds as she ponders running. (In the first quarter, Hirono raised about $100,000 to Hanabusa's $33,000).
Meanwhile, the Montana Senate race is expected to be one of the tightest races in the country. Rep. Denny Rehberg
, R-Mont., raised roughly half the money Sen. Jon Tester
, D-Mont., did in the last quarter - it's worth looking at whether he catches up this time around.
And in Arizona, Rep. Jeff Flake
, R-Ariz., has a big jumpstart on any Democrat who ultimately decides to run, and raised just over a million dollars in the first quarter. Will his fundraising lead become so daunting that some potential candidates decide against running?
6. Following the leader in Florida:
State Senate Pres. Mike Haridopolos
raised more money last quarter -- $2.6 million -- than any other challenger in any Senate race in the country. But Haridopolos benefited from an outpouring of contributions
from special interest groups who may have wanted to curry favor with the man presiding over the state's annual legislative session. Haridopolos could use another strong showing to prove that his fundraising prowess is not tied solely to his legislative influence -- and to generate some positive press for a candidacy that has seen its fair share of bad headlines this year.
Former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner
and former Sen. George LeMieux
will both file their first fundraising reports of the year and will look to keep pace with the high bar established by Haridopolos. Hasner, in particular, needs a strong quarter to back up some of the buzz
his campaign has generated among influential conservative groups and prove he can raise enough cash to compete in his first statewide campaign.
5. Hispanic underdogs with a fighting chance in New Mexico?
In a Senate race that is expected to host competitive primaries on both sides, it's worth keeping an eye on the numbers reported by state Auditor Hector Balderas
on the Democratic side and Lieutenant Gov. John Sanchez
on the GOP side. It'll be their first fundraising reports of the race, and will shed some light on whether they can keep up with the more establishment candidates, Rep. Martin Heinrich
, D-N.M., and former Rep. Heather Wilson
, R-N.M., both of whom proven their fundraising mettle.
4. Taking on Dewhurst in Texas
: With Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst
looking more likely to run, the Republican candidates already in the race would benefit from posting big hauls in advance of the presumed frontrunner's entrance.
In recent weeks, former Solicitor General Ted Cruz
has received endorsements from the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, as well as a glowing profile
from columnist George Will
. If Cruz's growing momentum can translate into big money, he could present Dewhurst, who will be considered the favorite the moment he declares, with a serious challenge from the right.
Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert
, who raised the most money in the race in the first quarter, would emerge as a major contender with another impressive performance.
And a strong initial showing by retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez
would bolster Democratic hopes of competing in the Lone Star State in 2012.
3. Missouri Republicans looking to prove themselves
: Former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman
had one of the most dismal fundraising performances of the first quarter, pulling in
just $186,000. Steelman has since hired Florida-based GOP strategist Rick Wilson and tried to turn around her campaign, and this will be the first test as to whether that effort is successful.
It's also an early test for her leading rival, Rep. Todd Akin
, R-Mo., as he seeks to show he raise money expected of a serious Senate candidate. He posted a solid number as a House candidate last quarter, but fundraising success doesn't always translate to higher offices.
2. What can Brown do for Massachusetts Democrats
? Can anyone currently in the race to challenge Sen. Scott Brown
. R-Mass, show they have any staying power? That's the test for the Democratic field, which has been looked down upon by the party establishment. But someone has a chance to make a splash if they post an surprisingly credible fundraising figure.
The two names to watch: Newton mayor Setti Warren
and philanthropist Alan Khazei
. If neither raises much money, look for Democrats to raise the urgency level to draft a bigger name - like Consumer Financial Protection Bureau special adviser Elizabeth Warren
-- into the race.
1. Major test For Lugar challenger
: With Tea Party activists salivating at the idea of sending Sen. Richard Lugar
, R-Ind., into retirement, Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock
figures to have an chance of upending the six-term senator in next year's primary.
But Mourdock turned in an underwhelming first quarter report, raising less than $158,000. Lugar, on the other hand, raised more then $970,000 and finished March with more than $3 million in the bank.
Lugar remains vulnerable because of his relatively moderate voting record, but Mourdock will have to step up his fundraising to be a serious threat to Lugar, who will have a lot of money and near-universal name recognition in Indiana.
On the final day of the fundraising quarter, RedState's Erick Erickson endorsed Mourdock's candidacy
, but it was too little too late for Mourdock to capitalize on the fundraising front.
-- Josh Kraushaar contributed to this report.