Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray has adjusted the partys fundraising strategy as she works to defend tough seats in 2012. The Washington Democrat is on her second tour of duty at the DSCC and has a challenging cycle ahead.
There has been some grumbling downtown among Democratic operatives about the DSCC's fundraising and its political operation, although the majority of reviews have been positive. One Democratic consultant had expected fundraising to be more brisk, given the number of incumbent Democrats running for re-election in 2012 and the power that comes with the Senate majority. As a rule, lobbyists will not donate to challengers of any party who run against a sitting Senator.
The consultant also criticized the DSCC for committing a few unforced errors, including sending out a well-meaning fundraising email appeal that warned that financial support for Sen. Ben Nelson's re-election in Nebraska might be abandoned if money was tight.
But most Washington-based Democrats appear pleased with Murray, particularly given the competition for campaign dollars that occurs in a presidential cycle and the potentially difficult races on tap in Florida, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio and Virginia.
Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), up for re-election in 2012 and last cycle's DSCC chairman, told Roll Call that Murray has been highly effective, complimenting her fundraising — particularly the improvement in the committee's Internet cash intake. He also praised her candidate recruitment effort. Menendez, who lost seven seats in a tough political atmosphere during his chairmanship despite a map that initially looked favorable, said Murray's biggest hurdle is "getting people to understand that [holding the majority] isn't necessarily all that challenging."
Menendez outlined Murray's task: convincing people, "despite what they think is the challenge, that you can beat those challenges."
He said Murray does have a challenge, but given his experience in 2010, she shouldn't focus solely on the number of Democrats who will be defending their seats and how that puts the majority on the line.
"In fact, expanding the map is a real possibility, and convincing your donor universe and the press that, in fact, you can do that is important," Menendez said.
The DSCC raised $11.8 million in the second quarter and closed the period with $9.1 million in the bank and about $2 million in debt. The NRSC raised $10.2 million from April 1 to June 30, to finish the quarter with $3.7 million in cash on hand and no debt. Murray is receiving prodigious fundraising assistance from Democratic Senators, which DSCC chairmen have come to expect from their Members.
Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) — who led the DSCC during the 2006 cycle, when his party won six seats to reclaim the Senate from the GOP, and during the 2008 cycle, when Democrats won an additional eight seats — penned a June fundraising appeal for the committee. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Franken are slated to write similar appeals in the coming months, as are other Democratic Senators.
Campaign and leadership political action committee transfers have come from, among others, Coons, who has given $50,000; Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (Calif.), who has contributed $90,000; Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.), who has donated $136,000; Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (Mich.), who has given $100,000; Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), who has contributed $40,000; Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), who has donated $110,000; and Murray, who has transferred $115,000.