Winners and Losers in the Money Race

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

National Journal
Scott Bland, Karyn Bruggeman, Adam Wollner and Alex Roarty
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Scott Bland , Karyn Bruggeman and Adam Wollner and Alex Roarty
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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