Category Archives: Senate

Senate Financials Tell Interesting Stories

The second quarter US Senate financial disclosure summaries are now available and in almost all cases, the incumbents have prepared adequately for their re-election campaigns. Obviously, the size of the state dictates the money range needed to run a viable effort, so the benchmark cash on hand figures differ greatly. All in-cycle incumbents have more than $1.5 million in assets with the exception of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who possesses $1.279 million. Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) has the most money in the bank, $9.628 million. The next closest cash on hand figure is Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) $6.057 million.

The only incumbent with less cash on hand than a challenger is Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV). Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) has $2.476 million in her campaign account versus Heller’s $2.272 million. The comparison is a bit unfair, however, because Heller is an appointed incumbent, replacing the resigned Sen. John Ensign (R). Therefore, his Senate incumbency is short-lived and should not be measured comparably to the other in-cycle full-term Senators.

The Senate incumbents having the strongest fundraising cycle to date are Scott Brown ($3.739 million), Bill Nelson ($3.695 million), and Democrat New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez ($3.581 million). The strongest open seat/challenger fundraisers are Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), who still has yet to announce his Senate candidacy, Connecticut Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5), who is seeking retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) open seat, and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) challenging one-term Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). Mandel raised $2.339 million, Murphy $2.012 million, and Rehberg $1.964 million.

The fundraising and resource components provide some idea as to how competitive some of the projected close races might become. Sen. Nelson, for example, continues to prove he is in solid shape by every measuring instrument. His $6.057 million cash on hand is more than seven times as great as his closest financial opponent, GOP former interim Sen. George LeMieux. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), commonly viewed as the most vulnerable incumbent seeking re-election, raised only $111,000 more than Attorney General Jon Bruning, but leads his chief Republican opponent $2.916 million to $1.265 million in the cash on hand category.

The competitive race that is proving to be the closest, at least in resources, is the Nevada Senate race. There Rep. Berkley shows $2.476 million compared with Sen. Heller’s $2.272 million cash on hand. This race could turn out to be the most hotly contested in the country. Nevada is a tight swing state, both candidates are equally well-known, and they both possess the same quantity of campaign resources. With turnout expected to be high in the presidential election year, the final wave will likely decide this campaign. The same can be said for the Virginia Senate race. There, former Sen. George Allen (R) has raised $2.615 million with $1.649 million on hand. Tim Kaine, the former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman, has raised a similar, but smaller, $2.266 million but has slightly more in the bank, $1.875 million.

As we know, finance tells only part of any political story, but no one denies that the dollar count is a highly important factor of any campaign effort.

Below is a link to a PDF spreadsheet containing the relevant financial numbers for all 33 Senate races being contested in 2012. The only state not recording any figures is Wisconsin. Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is retiring, and no one has yet formally declared their candidacy for the open seat.

Candidate Financials: Senate Financial Disclosure – 2nd Qtr 2011
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Michigan’s Sen. Stabenow Unfazed

Last week the big news emanating from Michigan was that former Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2) had changed his mind about entering the Senate race and will challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year, after all. Public Policy Polling immediately decided to survey Wolverine State voters to see what effect the Hoekstra candidacy will have on the race.

At least in the preliminary stages, the answer is: very little.

Stabenow has consistently enjoyed double-digit leads against all potential Republican candidates, but none have Hoekstra’s qualifications. According to PPP (July 21-24; 593 registered Michigan voters) Sen. Stabenow enjoys a 50-41 percent lead over the former congressman and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, not quite double-digits, but far beyond the margin of error.

The PPP poll is also reporting that neither candidate has particularly strong approval ratings. The senator scored only a 46:40 percent favorable to unfavorable, weak for an incumbent but much better than the EPIC-MRA poll (July 9-11; 600 registered Michigan voters) where she recorded a poor 38:51 percent rating. Hoekstra’s personal image proved weak on the latest survey, scoring only a 31:30 percent positive to negative response.

The Republicans had hoped to put the Michigan Senate race into serious play after their strong 2010 success in the state, and still might, but their challenge effort is off to a slow start. The GOP will now put all their eggs in Mr. Hoekstra’s basket in hopes that he can quickly position himself into upset range. This race merits a “watch” rating.
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Indiana Poll Shows Indiana’s Lugar Trailing in Primary

A new small-sample poll (July 23-24; 500 likely Indiana GOP primary voters) forecasts six-term Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar (R) to be trailing his Republican primary opponent for the first time. According to Basswood Research, conducting the survey for the Club for Growth (which claims not to be currently endorsing anyone in this race but cannot be considered favorable toward Sen. Lugar), state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) has a 34-32 percent lead over the incumbent with a huge 34 percent responding as undecided.

The poll also asked their respondents to answer the following question: “Would you say the following statement is true or untrue? Richard Lugar has done some good things for Indiana, but after 35 years in Washington, it’s time for a change.” In a most troubling result for the Senator, 69 percent of the Republican polling sample answered “True.”

Mourdock has only raised money in the $300,000 range for the campaign, but independent expenditure and issue advocacy groups like the Club for Growth will bring added resources to the Lugar challenge. A poll that shows the incumbent polling only at 32 percent, regardless of the opponent’s level of support, is a sure sign of serious political weakness.

Democrats have their own credible candidate in the person of Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2). Should the Republican primary turn ugly and Lugar or Mourdock win a close and divisive nomination, Donnelly could be well-positioned to pick up the pieces and snatch the seat away from the Republicans in the general election.

Much will happen here in the remaining ten months before the Indiana primary.
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Michigan’s Hoekstra Changes Course; He Will Run

Former Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2) abruptly changed his political course yesterday and now says he will challenge Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) next year for her Senate seat. Previously, the ex-congressman who lost the GOP gubernatorial primary in 2010, had removed himself from consideration as a potential candidate. Up to this point, the Michigan Senate race had been a recruitment disappointment for Republicans because they had not drafted a top tier challenger against Stabenow. Earlier in the year the Senator appeared to be vulnerable, mostly as a carry-over from the Republicans’ record showing in the 2010 Michigan elections.

Hoekstra is undoubtedly encouraged by a new EPIC-MRA Michigan poll that showed poor job approval numbers for Ms. Stabenow. According to their July 9-11 poll (600 Michigan registered voters), only 38 percent of those sampled approve of the job she is doing in the US Senate, versus 51 percent who disapprove. This is down from the 41:43 percent ratio she received from the firm’s May poll. Even though Stabenow’s numbers are poor, they are not as bad as President Obama’s 39:60 percent rating and Gov. Rick Snyder’s 34:57 percent. The President has taken a nose dive in popularity since the May poll, dropping a net of 20 points, when his ratio registered 49:50 percent. Mr. Snyder’s ratings, on the other hand, have actually improved over the past eight weeks when his EPIC-MRA positive to negative job approval score was 27:60 percent.
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Florida Republican Senate Contender Exits Race

Florida state Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) ended his brief US Senate campaign yesterday via video message. Telling supporters he cannot effectively balance his duties as Senate president with the time requirements of becoming a statewide candidate, Mr. Haridopolos said he would rededicate himself “to finishing the job you sent me to do here in Florida.” He further said he would finish his current term in the state Senate and not seek any electoral post in 2012. Haridopolos was a strong fundraiser in the first quarter of 2011, bringing in over $2.5 million. But, in the second quarter, during which the legislative session ended, his financial receipts total dropped precipitously to about $900,000.

Without Sen. Haridopolos in the race, the Republican field dwindles to former interim US Senator George LeMieux and ex-state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner. With a filing deadline of June 22, 2012, there is still more than enough time for other credible candidates to join the race. Originally, two-term Sen. Bill Nelson (D) was thought to be vulnerable and a Republican target, but the lack of a strong consensus GOP candidate emerging has strengthened the Democrat and bolstered his re-election prospects. Until something more significant happens in this race, Sen. Nelson becomes the prohibitive favorite for 2012.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com