By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza
The 2012 election cycle is officially one-eighth over, after candidates across the country filed their first quarter fundraising reports Friday.
The numbers don’t mean nearly as much as the amounts these candidates will raise later on in the cycle, but they do provide early indications about which incumbents and candidates are raring to go and who is leaving him or herself open to defeat next year.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the more important numbers from the first quarter:
* The Senate winners: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) got off to fast starts, raising $3 million and $2 million, respectively, for their 2012 reelection bids. And almost every Democratic senator who is up next year raised at least $1 million – a strong sign that they are ready to defend their majority.
Among challengers, Florida state Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) raised a very strong $2.6 million, and former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) raised $1.5 million.
Other strong performances came from Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who raised $1.2 million and outraised Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) two-to-one, and Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) who doubled up former Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz in the Democratic primary for the state’s open seat, pulling in $1.1 million.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) may scare off potential opponents in his state’s open Senate race after pulling in more than $1 million. And Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) made a strong entry into the Nevada Senate race, pulling in nearly $700,000 for her House campaign in the first quarter – all money she can easily transfer to her just-launched Senate bid. She outraised likely GOP nominee Rep. Dean Heller, even though Heller officially launched his Senate campaign with two weeks left in the quarter.
* Senate losers: If there are winners, there are also losers, of course. Topping the list is former Missouri Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R), who pulled in just $186,000 and risks losing her status as the presumptive GOP frontrunner to face Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). Meanwhile, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who isn’t in the race yet, pulled in $459,000 for his House account – a strong signal that he will run, given that he normally doesn’t raise anywhere near that amount.
Case study number two is Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), who raised $158,000 in a little more than a month after announcing a primary challenge to Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.). Yes, it’s just a month, but generally, that’s time for the low-hanging fruit, and Mourdock is far off pace to raise the $3 million he said he needs.
* House GOP freshman: With nearly 90 freshman Republicans in the House, getting all of them to start fundraising right away is no small task. And in many cases, they haven’t gotten on the horse yet.
As Fix colleague and all-around fundraising wiz T.W. Farnam reported Sunday, the GOP freshman class raised significantly less on average in the first quarter than the big classes of Democratic freshmen in 2007 and 2009.
At the macro level, that’s not a good thing. But keep in mind: unlike the 2007 and 2009 classes of Democratic freshmen, there are many members of this GOP freshman class that likely won’t have much trouble holding on to their seats in the years to come. For these members, the onus to raise big money early isn’t as big.
But even for many of the GOP’s most vulnerable, a chance was missed to scare off potential 2012 challengers, at least in this quarter. Rep. Dan Webster (R-Fla.) raised just $30,000, Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.) and Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) raised just $65,000 apiece, and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) raised just more than $50,000.
* Redistricting targets: This cycle is an odd one. Almost every House member isn’t even sure what district he or she will have to defend in 2012. But for those who have a good idea that redistricting isn’t their friend, fundraising early is key.
While Reps. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Allen West (R-Fla.) each raised more than $450,000 for their potentially tough redistricting cycles – two of the strongest quarters of any incumbent – Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) raised just $32,000 and Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) raised just $14,000.
Among other notables from our Friday list of the top 10 potential redistricting victims: Reps. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) each raised about $370,000, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.) raised $200,000, Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.) raised $111,000 and Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) raised $189,000.
So far, redistricting has paired two sets of incumbents in head-to-head matchups. Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) raised $198,000 – slightly less than Rep. Charles Boustany’s (R-La.) $235,000 – and Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) raised $414,000 and has a big early financial advantage for his just-announced run against Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa).
Sanchez for Senate?: Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is leaning toward a run for the open Senate seat in Texas, in what would amount to a major recruiting coup for Democrats in the Lone Star State.
National Democrats confirmed that Sanchez was the potential candidate that Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) was referring to at a briefing for reporters in Washington late last week when she said she expected a candidate to emerge in Texas.
“Gen. Sanchez has spent his entire life serving our country, and there’s no question he would be a strong candidate if he decides to continue to serve his country in the U.S. Senate,” said DSCC communications director Matt Canter. “He would bring a new perspective to the Senate, as well as a proven commitment to our nation’s security and the men and women who fight to protect it.”
Sanchez was a lifelong military officer and was in charge of military operations in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. He was forced from that role when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal happened on his watch; he retired from the military in 2006.
He’s a potentially appealing statewide candidate for Democrats due to his Hispanic heritage and potential star power on the campaign trail.
There are a number of Republicans running to replace GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, including former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, former Secretary of State Roger Williams, Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has yet to announce for Senate but is considered a favorite if he does run.
Ryan: We’ll vote on tax cuts and spending cuts: While Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) did not say explicitly Sunday that he would vote against raising the debt limit without conditions, he said the understanding in the House GOP is that the vote will come in “conjunction” with spending cuts.
Democrats have called for a clean vote on the debt limit alone, while Republicans are trying to use the vote to extract fiscal policy concessions.
In an interview Friday, President Obama acknowledged that “it’s not going to happen without some spending cuts.”
In his appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Ryan also declined to respond to remarks the president made at an off-the-record dinner last week critical of Ryan’s budget and record.
Grijalva urges Dems not to wait for Giffords: Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said this weekend that his party needs a candidate for Arizona’s open Senate seat, and that they can’t wait for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) to recover.
Newsweek recently reported that while Giffords has made incredible progress since being shot in the head three months ago, her recovery is still in its early stages.
“I think the heir apparent was Gabby Giffords. Her situation is different, obviously,” Grijalva told The Hill. “We need to get a candidate quick, within the next month.”
He named three possible candidates: former Attorney General Terry Goddard, businessman Jim Pederson and Rep. Ed Pastor. Pederson, who ran for the same seat in 2006, has already said he won’t run, though.
- Stephen Colbert has officially launched a super PAC.
- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) goes to Iraq.
- Doonesbury does Trump.
- Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) will sign his state’s redistricting plan — the one that pits Latham against Boswell — into law.
- Sarah Palin praises Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) reforms in Madison.
- Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) is raising money for a likely challenge to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
- “Celebrating Romney’s true role” — Boston Globe editorial
- “Hawaii braces for a Democratic primary clash” — Kyle Trygstad, CQ-Roll Call
- “In redistricting, Democrats look for electoral opportunities” — John Fritze, Baltimore Sun
- “Mike Haridopolos’ rise aided by political partner” — Adam C. Smith, St. Petersburg Times