Year-end fundraising reports filed this week only confirm what strategists from both parties already know — this fall’s battle for control of the Senate is going to be close.
Scan the playing field state-by-state, region-by-region, and it’s hard to reach a different conclusion. Both parties have solid arguments for why they’ll finish on top, and the latest money figures only solidify them.
Democratic incumbents from the class of 2006 are fundraising as if they’re running for the first time, party insiders said, while Republicans see several paths to net the four seats needed for a majority.
“As much as I would like to believe that 2012 will be a wave election for Republicans, it is unlikely to be so at the presidential level,” said Scott Bensing, a former executive director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “It will be close, meaning that high-quality Senate candidates and well-run campaigns will win the day.”
Bensing, who now runs SB Strategic Consulting, said the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee “is fighting on too many fronts, has too many retirements and Republicans have a great slate of candidates,” including an incredibly well-funded incumbent in Massachusetts and a former governor in Hawaii who has made that the mostly unlikely race of the cycle.
Democrats entered the 2012 cycle with a disparate number of seats to hold, 23 to the GOP’s 10. But, as DSCC Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) said in December, the party feels a lot better about its chances of holding the majority than it did a year ago.
“It’s no secret our side has more seats to defend, and the DSCC has made sure our candidates have their campaigns in order,” said Democratic strategist Jef Pollock of the Global Strategy Group.
“They’ve also expanded the playing field with good recruiting in Arizona and gone a long way toward picking up Massachusetts,” he added. “So we have reason to be optimistic about how things will turn out when the American people choose which party they want leading the country.”
While Republicans remain the favorites to win them, the potential competitiveness of North Dakota and Arizona, where Sen. Jon Kyl (R) is retiring, is a positive development for Democrats.
Democrats recruited former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp to run for retiring Sen. Kent Conrad’s (D) seat and former Surgeon General Richard Carmona to run against Rep. Jeff Flake, or whoever emerges from the GOP primary in Arizona. Carmona and Heitkamp turned in fundraising quarters rivaling Flake and Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.), despite not entering their respective races until early November.