Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray is charged with helping her party keep control of the Senate. Her own re-election race last cycle is an example of how outside spending can greatly affect a contest and the importance of fundraising.
Those disclosure reports revealed the groups have already targeted Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.). Of that group, Nelson and Stabenow are widely considered to be safer and outside the top tier of targeted races.
Stabenow raised $1.5 million last quarter, and she has just shy of $7 million in cash on hand. Still, with a rocky economy and the potential for Republican momentum on the coattails of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in his home state, Stabenow feels an urgency to raise even more.
“Oh, sure. Absolutely. I think that with the super PACs today, that’s something that’s in the backs of everybody’s minds,” Stabenow said. “There’s always that challenge, but I feel very fortunate so far because people have been very supportive so far.
“We’re all working hard [and] decisions will be made based on who has the [toughest] races,” Stabenow said of the distribution of campaign funds. “But I think the biggest thing is people are working hard and trying to protect ourselves.”
The most recent quarterly filings will not be available until next month. The beginning of this year, however, was a lucrative stretch for Democratic incumbents, particularly those in the tightest races. Democratic women have also been strong fundraisers, holding women’s campaign events and barnstorming the coasts for cash.
McCaskill and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) raised $2.3 million and $1 million, respectively. Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Rep. Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin and Rep. Mazie Hirono in Hawaii raised $6.9 million, $2 million and more than $1 million, respectively.
And in the Rust Belt states, Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Bob Casey (Pa.) have $6.3 million and $5.3 million in cash on hand, respectively. Nelson has more than $9.5 million in the bank after raising $1.5 million last quarter.
Just how much money these candidates will need may depend on the strength of the national ticket in their respective states. Senate Democratic aides say they are trying to gird their candidates against huge swings based on the performance of President Barack Obama, for example, by identifying ticket-splitting voters. They pointed especially to Romney voters who might also vote for Tester, Nelson or Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine in Virginia. Aides noted it may be easier to find a Romney-Kaine voter than an Obama-George Allen supporter.
Some of these candidates, they suggested, could survive an Obama loss if it’s by a small margin but could lose on larger margins of national defeat.
In the end, however, everyone agrees that candidates regardless of party will have to fight for their victories, perhaps harder than they ever have in their careers and go back to the fundamentals of their first races.
“Everybody has to work hard,” Murray said. “And frankly I feel really good about people like Debbie — she goes home, she knows her state, she works hard, she’s doing everything she needs to do.”