The Hotline‘s Senate Fundraising Winners and Losers

National Journal
Julie Sobel and Alex Roarty
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Julie Sobel Alex Roarty
Feb. 3, 2014, 1:38 a.m.

Can­did­ates for fed­er­al of­fice were re­quired to file their year-end cam­paign fin­ance re­ports with the Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion by mid­night last Fri­day, and with con­trol of the Sen­ate up for grabs, we were eagerly await­ing the num­bers as they trickled in. Here’s who won, and lost, the fourth quarter of 2013.

Win­ners

Michelle Nunn: The Demo­crat­ic Party’s lone hope in Geor­gia is turn­ing in­to a fin­an­cial jug­ger­naut. She raised $1.6 mil­lion in the fi­nal three months of 2013 after col­lect­ing $1.7 mil­lion the three months pre­vi­ous—hauls about which most in­cum­bents would boast. The im­press­ive totals are a test­a­ment to Nunn’s strength as she runs es­sen­tially un­op­posed in the Peach State’s Demo­crat­ic primary. The con­trast with her Re­pub­lic­an op­pon­ents couldn’t be more stark: The top five GOP con­tenders each failed to clear a mil­lion dol­lars in their own fourth-quarter fun­drais­ing. Geor­gia re­mains a tough state for Demo­crats, but Nunn is quietly put­ting the party in the best pos­sible po­s­i­tion to com­pete in the fall.

Terri Lynn Land: The Michigan Re­pub­lic­an ce­men­ted her stand­ing as the 2014 field’s most sur­pris­ingly strong can­did­ate with yet an­oth­er im­press­ive fun­drais­ing quarter. The former sec­ret­ary of state re­por­ted a $1.7 mil­lion fourth quarter, on top of the $2 mil­lion she had already pock­eted. Yes, al­most half of that came from her own bank ac­count (in­clud­ing $600,000 in the last quarter). But she’s still raised $2 mil­lion on her own, an ac­com­plish­ment for a can­did­ate lightly re­garded by the Michigan GOP es­tab­lish­ment when she entered the race in the sum­mer. Her op­pon­ent, Demo­crat­ic Rep. Gary Peters, raised a re­spect­able $1 mil­lion him­self, but the fin­an­cial ad­vant­age many pre­dicted he’d have against Land now looks un­likely to ma­ter­i­al­ize.

Dan Sul­li­van: Sul­li­van’s $1.25-mil­lion fourth-quarter haul demon­strates he’s the front-run­ner in Alaska’s GOP primary (for more on that, see the losers sec­tion). But Alaska’s former at­tor­ney gen­er­al also out-raised the in­cum­bent Demo­crat­ic sen­at­or, Mark Be­gich, who col­lec­ted $850,000 in 2013’s fi­nal months. When a chal­lenger tops the in­cum­bent, it’s usu­ally a strong in­dic­a­tion of the can­did­acy’s vi­ab­il­ity. It’s es­pe­cially im­port­ant in the Alaska Sen­ate race, where Demo­crats are count­ing on a dam­aging primary to slow down the even­tu­al GOP nom­in­ee be­fore he reaches the gen­er­al elec­tion. Sul­li­van’s fun­drais­ing prowess might change that cal­cu­la­tion.

Kay Hagan: Who knew North Car­o­lina’s ju­ni­or sen­at­or was such a fun­drais­ing ti­tan? The Demo­crat­ic law­maker raised $2 mil­lion in the fourth quarter, one of the highest totals of any 2014 can­did­ate. At the be­gin­ning of the year, she had $6.8 mil­lion on hand. The Re­pub­lic­an con­sidered her gravest threat, state House Speak­er Thom Tillis, man­aged just $700,000. Hagan’s biggest prob­lem for now isn’t her GOP op­pon­ents—it’s the non­profit out­side group Amer­ic­ans for Prosper­ity, which has dumped nearly $7 mil­lion in­to the Tar Heel State already.

Mitch Mc­Con­nell/Al­is­on Lun­der­gan Grimes: We saved the best for last. The Ken­tucky duo has raised an enorm­ous amount com­bined—no sur­prise for the race ex­pec­ted to be the most ex­pens­ive in the coun­try. Mc­Con­nell re­por­ted rais­ing $2.22 mil­lion in the last months of 2013 and has an astound­ing $10.9 mil­lion on hand. Grimes, mean­while, re­por­ted a $2.1 mil­lion fourth-quarter haul, mean­ing she raised more than $5 mil­lion total for the year. The Demo­crat still faces a huge cash dis­par­ity against the Sen­ate minor­ity lead­er, but she’s hold­ing her own so far. And while she has a free run to the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­a­tion, Mc­Con­nell still faces GOP foe Matt Bev­in in a primary. The Louis­ville-area busi­ness­man is a hard can­did­ate to fig­ure out, and he might yet prove to be little more than a bump in the road. But he re­por­ted rais­ing $900,000 in the fourth quarter, a de­cent sum for a can­did­ate tak­ing on the Re­pub­lic­an es­tab­lish­ment.

Losers

Mead Tread­well: Alaska’s lieu­ten­ant gov­ernor had a weak quarter—his second in a row—bring­ing in just $228,000. Tread­well and Sul­li­van are the two es­tab­lish­ment can­did­ates in the GOP race (2010 nom­in­ee Joe Miller is also run­ning), and it will be dif­fi­cult for Tread­well to com­pete for sup­port in the primary if he’s at such a severe fin­an­cial dis­ad­vant­age.

Col­or­ado state Rep. Amy Steph­ens: Steph­ens has got­ten some buzz as a Re­pub­lic­an who could mount a real chal­lenge to Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mark Ud­all if she could win the GOP primary—no easy task, giv­en that she sponsored the le­gis­la­tion cre­at­ing a state health care ex­change. But her fourth-quarter totals (her first in the race) were far from im­press­ive: She raised just $51,000, a paltry sum par­tic­u­larly con­sid­er­ing Ud­all’s $4.7 mil­lion war chest. She’ll have to do much bet­ter than that to get past 2010 GOP nom­in­ee Ken Buck in the primary, let alone take on Ud­all.

Sen. Mark Pry­or of Arkan­sas: While Pry­or brought in a re­spect­able $1.1 mil­lion dur­ing the last three months of the year, GOP Rep. Tom Cot­ton edged him with a $1.2 mil­lion haul. Pry­or still has sub­stan­tially more money in the bank, but it’s nev­er a good sign when a sit­ting sen­at­or is out­raised by a chal­lenger—and that has now happened to Pry­or, widely con­sidered the most en­dangered sen­at­or up for reelec­tion, two quar­ters in a row.

The Iowa GOP field: Demo­crat­ic Rep. Bruce Bra­ley had an­oth­er sol­id fun­drais­ing quarter, bring­ing in about $1 mil­lion and end­ing the year with $2.6 mil­lion in the bank. But the can­did­ates for the GOP nom­in­a­tion con­tin­ued to struggle. Busi­ness­man Mark Jac­obs eas­ily led the field, and he brought in only about $400,000, to which he ad­ded some of his own money. State Sen. Joni Erst, who is well liked by es­tab­lish­ment Re­pub­lic­ans, took in just over $200,000. Both ended the year with less than $300,000 in the bank. Oth­er GOP can­did­ates lagged be­hind. As the Re­pub­lic­ans pre­pare to duke it out and try to avoid a con­ven­tion, they aren’t look­ing well-po­si­tioned fin­an­cially to square off with Bra­ley, who has a clear shot to the nom­in­a­tion.

The Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Sen­at­ori­al Com­mit­tee: The NR­SC was out­raised by the DSCC sub­stan­tially over the course of 2013, with the Demo­crat­ic com­mit­tee bring­ing in $16 mil­lion more than its coun­ter­part. Ad­di­tion­ally, the NR­SC raised less as a com­mit­tee than it did two years ago. Still, the two com­mit­tees were in a fun­drais­ing dead heat in Decem­ber, and the na­tion­al out­look looks a lot more fa­vor­able for Re­pub­lic­ans that it did on Oct. 15, the pre­vi­ous FEC dead­line.

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