Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), one of a handful of incumbents likely to face a tough reelection battle in 2006, raised more than $1.4 million in the second quarter of the year, bringing her cash on hand to nearly $4 million.
Stabenow’s fundraising figures, released by her campaign, contrast sharply with those of Keith Butler, a Detroit pastor and city councilor and the only Republican in the Senate race. Butler has raised $800,000 since the beginning of the year.
A senior Stabenow campaign official said that the campaign is “very pleased” with the fundraising figures and that the senator is well on her way to raising the $15 million she needs to win a second term.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), meanwhile, reeled in more than $550,000 in the second quarter of the year, bringing his cash on hand to $1 million-plus.
Like Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), who raised $2.6 million in the period from April 1 through June 30, Bingaman is up for reelection in 2006 and faces no serious opposition.
While other senators in this election cycle, including Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), are almost certain to face tough reelection battles, most incumbents are financially well-positioned for the 16-month sprint to Election Day 2006.
Chafee raised far less than Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse — $400,000 compared to $775,000 for Whitehouse — but the senator has more cash in the bank while Whitehouse, a former state attorney general, has yet to battle his way through a primary with Secretary of State Matt Brown.
Santorum is expected to report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that he has more than $5.6 million on hand, while Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D), who is challenging Santorum, is thought to have between $1.6 million and $1.8 million.
A Bingaman campaign aide said his boss hopes to stave off a tough reelection challenge by holding numerous small-donor events across his home state — and scaring away potential challengers.
“We are girding for a serious race and doing everything we can to convince [would-be opponents] that such a race would be difficult for an opponent to engage in,” the aide said.
The Democrat’s prodigious fundraising — at the current pace, he would raise more than the nearly $2.6 million he spent in 2000 — likely makes it harder for the GOP to recruit a viable candidate.
Further helping the senator is the new, post-McCain-Feingold fundraising ceiling. “Max-out donors,” as campaign operatives call them can now give $4,200, versus $2,000 in 2000. That made it easier for Bingaman to reach his second-quarter cash-on-hand goal of $1 million, the campaign aide said.
Several Republicans in New Mexico and Washington have all but conceded the race to Bingaman, who won his last term with 62 percent. But David Pfeffer, a Republican Santa Fe city councilman who is considering a Senate bid, was more optimistic.
Pfeffer acknowledged he would not be able to raise as much money as Bingaman. Still, he said, he is confident that he can muster the $4 million to $5 million he estimates would be needed to deny the senator a fifth term.
Pfeffer also hopes to capitalize on voter uneasiness with the country’s porous border with Mexico.
Former state Sen. Tony Benavides (R) is the only member of his party to enter the race against Bingaman. Republicans earlier had high hopes of recruiting Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), but Wilson and other potentially strong candidates have stayed out, in part, Republicans speculate, because there is talk that Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) will retire in 2008.
David Beattie, pollster for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), said simply raising a lot of money does not win races. “You win races not by the total money you have but by outraising your opponent,” Beattie said.
While Nelson will have an easier time raising money now that Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) is in the race, Harris — known for her role as Florida secretary of state in the 2000 presidential recount — should have no problem raking in a small fortune, Beattie added.
Beattie said that 70 to 80 percent of campaign funds go toward communicating with voters — through television, radio and direct mail. Polls, which range in price, typically take up no more than 3 to 5 percent of the campaign budget, he said.
Many campaigns opted not to disclose their fundraising figures before the Friday filing deadline. Those senators include some who are expected to win reelection easily. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who is running unopposed and is renowned for her fundraising prowess, will release her quarterly intake Friday by noon, said Patty Solis-Doyle, executive director of Friends of Hillary, the senator’s reelection campaign.
As for Stabenow, she could be in for a much tougher race if Domino’s Pizza CEO David Brandon enters the GOP primary, as many in the state’s congressional delegation would like. Brandon is independently wealthy and has the backing of many business leaders in Michigan.
Saul Anuzis, the Michigan GOP chairman, who was in Washington yesterday meeting with officials from the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), among others, said Republicans were mining Stabenow’s voting record for campaign fodder. Likely issues include Stabenow’s record on tax cuts, judges and funding for the troops in Iraq, Anuzis said.