Winners and Losers in the Money Race

McConnell, Landrieu, and Hagan do well. Begich and Walsh, not so much.

National Journal
Alex Roarty and Adam Wollner and Karyn Bruggeman and Scott Bland
April 14, 2014, 3:51 p.m.

It al­ways means more in an elec­tion year.

Fun­drais­ing does mat­ter in an off year — just ask Mitch Mc­Con­nell’s op­pon­ent, Matt Bev­in, if he wishes he had col­lec­ted enough cash last year to be on TV in a big way now. But it mat­ters more with an elec­tion in Novem­ber, and can­did­ates already are dis­tin­guish­ing them­selves — in ways both good and bad — in the first fin­an­cial dis­clos­ures of 2014.

While num­bers will con­tin­ue to ma­ter­i­al­ize this week, here are some of the win­ners and losers so far.

WIN­NERS

Michelle Nunn

The daugh­ter of former Sen­ate roy­alty was ex­pec­ted to raise money plenty of money, but her hauls have to be ex­ceed­ing even the wild­est Demo­crat­ic fantas­ies. Michelle Nunn raised about $2.4 mil­lion in the first quarter, an as­tro­nom­ic­al sum for any can­did­ate, much less a Demo­crat run­ning in a red state like Geor­gia.

Her cash-on-hand totals aren’t yet pub­lic, but after car­ry­ing roughly $2.5 mil­lion in­to the new year, it’s a fair bet the one­time phil­an­throp­ist is not want­ing for dol­lars as the state’s primary sea­son hits its home stretch.

Nunn has long been seen as a threat to win the gen­er­al elec­tion if Re­pub­lic­ans nom­in­ate someone out­side the polit­ic­al main­stream, like Reps. Paul Broun or Phil Gin­grey. But with this kind of cash, she’ll be a for­mid­able foe to whomever the GOP taps to face her.

Demo­crat­ic Su­per PACs

With the 2014 map turn­ing against their party, Demo­crat­ic donors are step­ping up. The two Demo­crat­ic su­per PACs fo­cused on con­gres­sion­al elec­tions re­cor­ded ma­jor im­prove­ments over their first-quarter totals from the 2012 cycle.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity PAC an­nounced that it raised about $11 mil­lion in the first three months of the year, com­pared with the $1.7 mil­lion it brought in dur­ing the same peri­od in 2012, and fin­ished with about $8.5 mil­lion in the bank. Mean­while, House Ma­jor­ity PAC nearly tripled its haul from the first quarter of 2012 to roughly $5.3 mil­lion in 2014, and fin­ished March with about $7 mil­lion on hand.

Still, it shouldn’t all be un­bridled op­tim­ism for Demo­crats. For one, these groups are far bet­ter es­tab­lished now than in 2012, their first polit­ic­al cycle. And even if they keep up the fun­drais­ing pace through the rest of the cycle, they will be hard-pressed to out­spend Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity and oth­er con­ser­vat­ive ad­vocacy groups backed by wealthy donors that have already poured big bucks in­to key Sen­ate and House races across the coun­try.

House Chal­lengers and Fresh­men

One of the greatest obstacles for primary chal­lengers is a lack of funds, es­pe­cially when they start without a preex­ist­ing base of sup­port. Mas­sachu­setts Demo­crat Seth Moulton’s big first quarter — nearly $455,000 raised — en­sures that he’ll have the abil­ity to get his name out there when his primary against Demo­crat­ic Rep. John Tier­ney heats up.

A few fresh­men scored big in the first quarter, too. Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Rod­ney Dav­is pulled in $600,000 in Illinois, while Demo­crat­ic Rep. Patrick Murphy con­tin­ued his gang­busters pace in Flor­ida by rais­ing $675,000 — even though he’s not run­ning against firebrand Re­pub­lic­an Al­len West this year.

Mean­while, both Rep. Mike Coff­man and Demo­crat­ic chal­lenger An­drew Ro­man­off are look­ing like win­ners ahead of their match­up in Col­or­ado. This race fig­ures to be one of the coun­try’s most ex­pens­ive House con­tests in 2014, and both can­did­ates con­tin­ue to give them­selves the best pos­sible chance to tell their own stor­ies in the fall. Ro­man­off is in slightly bet­ter po­s­i­tion, hav­ing raised $603,000 in the first quarter to Coff­man’s $593,000, and the Demo­crat has $2.1 mil­lion in the bank to Coff­man’s $1.85 mil­lion.

Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell

Yes, the Sen­ate minor­ity lead­er’s burn rate is high. And yes, his Demo­crat­ic op­pon­ent, Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes, is stock­pil­ing loads of cash while Mc­Con­nell fends off his Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ent. But don’t lose sight of the two fig­ures that mat­ter most: a massive $2.4 mil­lion raised dur­ing the first three months of 2014, and about $10.4 mil­lion cash on hand.

Both sug­gest that Mc­Con­nell’s cam­paign — along with what’s sure to be an on­slaught of help from well-fun­ded GOP out­side groups — can main­tain its already-heavy spend­ing through Novem­ber.

Of course, if Mc­Con­nell loses, crit­ics will look to his first-quarter fun­drais­ing re­port and won­der just what the cam­paign was spend­ing its money on. His top aides ar­gue they’re lay­ing the found­a­tion for a ro­bust ground game come Novem­ber. Nobody will find out the ef­fic­acy of those ef­forts un­til Elec­tion Day.

Sens. Mary Landrieu and Kay Hagan

Des­pite their status as two of the most vul­ner­able in­cum­bents, Demo­crat­ic Sens. Mary Landrieu and Kay Hagan each showed they’ll have any­thing but a thin wal­let by the fall.

In Louisi­ana, Landrieu out­raised her top GOP op­pon­ent, Rep. Bill Cas­sidy, $1.8 mil­lion to $1.2 mil­lion, and had about $2.5 mil­lion more in the bank at the end of March. Hagan, mean­while, con­tin­ued build­ing her own war chest in North Car­o­lina, bring­ing in roughly $2.8 mil­lion in the first quarter and fin­ish­ing with about $8.3 mil­lion on hand.

Those are ser­i­ous sums of cash for a couple of en­dangered in­cum­bents.

The two Demo­crats still face dra­mat­ic­ally dif­fer­ent situ­ations: As out­side groups con­tin­ue to spend heav­ily on both races, Hagan can con­serve her cash as the Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ates duke it out ahead of the May 20 primary. Landrieu, on the oth­er hand, is already pre­par­ing to take to the air­waves, book­ing $2.6 mil­lion in ad time between mid-April and the end of June.

LOSERS

Sen. Mark Be­gich

It’s nev­er good for in­cum­bents to be out­raised by their chal­lengers, and Mark Be­gich is no ex­cep­tion. Former Re­pub­lic­an At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Dan Sul­li­van trumped Alaska’s sit­ting sen­at­or by nearly $300,000 dur­ing the first three months of the year.

Sul­li­van brought in about $1.3 mil­lion to Be­gich’s roughly $1 mil­lion, though Be­gich still has a cash-on-hand ad­vant­age. He ended the quarter with about $2.8 mil­lion in the bank while Sul­li­van re­por­ted about $2 mil­lion.

But if Be­gich can’t pick up the fun­drais­ing pace, his heav­ier bank­roll will soon be­come a thing of the past. The Alaska Demo­crat’s best chance to main­tain his fin­an­cial edge might be a com­pet­it­ive primary for Sul­li­van, but his Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ents haven’t shown much of an abil­ity to raise money them­selves.

Sen. John Walsh

Even with the ad­ded be­ne­fit of in­cum­bency, Demo­crat­ic Sen. John Walsh, who was ap­poin­ted to fill the Montana Sen­ate seat va­cated by Sen. Max Baucus in Feb­ru­ary, was out­raised by his likely Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ent in the first three months of the year.

Rep. Steve Daines brought in about $1.2 mil­lion and fin­ished the first quarter with roughly $2.2 mil­lion cash on hand. At $947,000, Walsh raised a de­cent sum, but ended March with just $700,000 on hand.

Like Be­gich, it’s nev­er a good sign when the chal­lenger posts a lar­ger haul than the in­cum­bent — even if Walsh has only been one for about two months. The race was already viewed as an up­hill battle for Walsh, and these fig­ures sup­port that no­tion.

Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gin­grey

The run-up to the GOP nom­in­a­tion has been good fin­an­cially for these two Geor­gia Sen­ate hope­fuls, but prob­ably not good enough.

The At­lanta Journ­al-Con­sti­tu­tion re­ports that Broun raised $345,000 in the first quarter, up from pre­vi­ous hauls, but still be­low what most of the con­gress­man’s boost­ers would like to see as the primary enters its fi­nal weeks. He had just $230,000 in his cam­paign’s bank ac­count en­ter­ing April, hardly enough for much air­time in the all-im­port­ant At­lanta TV mar­ket.

Gin­grey, mean­while, raised less than his con­gres­sion­al coun­ter­part, ac­cord­ing to re­ports, a wor­ry­ing sign for a can­did­ate who star­ted the primary with a siz­able war chest. If either Gin­grey or Broun fin­ishes in the primary’s top two spots, po­s­i­tions that would guar­an­tee a place in a two-can­did­ate run­off, it won’t be thanks to a surge in cash.

GOP House Can­did­ate Tom Ma­cAr­thur

When comes to fin­an­cial dis­clos­ures, big num­bers don’t al­ways mean big sup­port. New Jer­sey Re­pub­lic­an Tom Ma­cAr­thur, for ex­ample, brought in $2,001,075 in the first quarter — but the first $2 mil­lion of that was a per­son­al loan.

Now, it is prob­ably bet­ter to be the guy with $2 mil­lion in the bank than it is to be his op­pon­ent, but the total lack of out­side fun­drais­ing by the main can­did­ate stand­ing between the con­tro­ver­sial Steve Loneg­an and the GOP nom­in­a­tion in a vul­ner­able, open con­gres­sion­al dis­trict might raise a red flag or two about his level of sup­port.

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