First quarter fundraising: 5 numbers that matter

April 17, 2013

The 2014 election cycle is off to a fast start, with candidates for House and Senate ramping up their fundraising in the first quarter. In fact, most top Senate candidates have already raised more than a million dollars.

While it might seem early, the fact is that fundraising never stops. And even these early numbers can help us glean some ideas about the election cycle ahead.

We looked over all the numbers and picked out five that actually mean something. What did we miss? The comments section awaits...

Rounds leaves the door open

Former South Dakota governor Mike Rounds (R) remains alone and heavily favored in that state's open Senate race, but his first-quarter fundraising haul isn't going to scary off any potential challengers.

After raising a solid $270,000 late in 2012, Rounds pulled in just $184,000 in the first quarter. For comparison's sake, Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), who is still considering the race, has raised less than $200,000 in a quarter just once in 13 fundraising quarters (according to data kept by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader's David Montgomery) and that was when she first launched her first House campaign in 2010.

We are still doubtful that Rounds will face a tough primary, but Noem (or someone else) has to like her chances better today than she did before. And on the Democratic side, both U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson and former congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin probably feel better about their prospects if they run, too. The fact is that Rounds could have done plenty to discourage potential opponents in the first quarter, and he didn't do it.

King doesn't ramp up

Just across the border from South Dakota, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is still considering running for Senate, but he's not fundraising like a candidate yet. King raised less than $100,000 in the first quarter and has less than $100,000 cash on hand. The total is a reminder that, while many think he's likely to run, it remains very much an open question.

On the other side, presumptive Democratic nominee Rep. Bruce Braley raised nearly $1.1 million, which should light a fire under Republicans as they try and figure out who their standard-bearer will be. They are losing ground early.


Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). (Cory Ryan/Getty Images)

Franken and Booker win the quarter

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) each raised nearly $2 million for the quarter, outpacing everybody else and serving notice that both men -- who remain unopposed in their races -- will be extremely well-funded.

Booker's potential primary opponent, Rep. Frank Pallone, has $3.7 million cash on hand, but he raised far less than Booker -- about $460,000 -- and has to be thinking that Booker would be the better-funded candidate.

Franken was the top fundraiser in the 2008 election cycle. His top potential GOP opponents, Reps. Erik Paulsen and John Kline, raised $360,000 and $258,000, respectively.

Cotton's big entree

Republicans have to be excited about Rep. Tom Cotton's (R-Ark.) quarter, not just because the freshman raised a nearly unheard-of $526,000 in his first quarter as a House member, but also because it suggests he's serious about potentially running for Senate.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) still far outraised Cotton, pulling in $1.9 million. But that was with some help from former president Bill Clinton, and the fact remains that Cotton isn't yet a Senate candidate. If he can pull in that much when it's not clear whether he'll run, just think how much he can raise if he jumps in.

Jumbled in Georgia

Nobody asserted themselves as the fundraising front-runner in the open Georgia Senate race, and just about everyone's got a little something to crow about.

Rep. Jack Kingston (R), who isn't in the race yet, raised the most, pulling in $842,000; Reps. Phil Gingrey (R) and Tom Price (R) have the most cash on hand with $2.4 million and $2.1 million (Gingrey is in, but Price is not yet); and the Democrats' top potential candidate -- Rep. John Barrow -- raised a solid $416,000 for his House account.

The one loser for the quarter was Rep. Paul Broun (R), who pulled in just $209,000 and had $217,000 cash on hand.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Aaron Blake · April 17, 2013