The Fix’s third-quarter fundraising winners and losers

October 18, 2013

The third quarter fundraising period is in the books.


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With the 2014 midterm elections a little over a year away, the Senate and House landscape is beginning to take shape, and that means the money chase is, too. Fundraising, while far from a perfect indicator of success or failure, is a useful metric for sizing up candidate momentum, dedication (the best fundraisers spend hours a day dialing for dollars), and relative strength.

So who soared and who fizzled between July and September? Here's our take:

Winners:

1. Alison Lundergan Grimes:  The Kentucky Democratic secretary of state outraised Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), bringing in an impressive $2.5 million during her first fundraising period as a Senate candidate. McConnell has built a nearly $10 million war chest, so Grimes will need to keep the cash flowing to have a chance. The good news for her is that the members of her fundraising team know how to raise big bucks since they did it for financial juggernaut and now Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the last cycle.

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2. Michelle Nunn: The daughter of former senator Sam Nunn has never run for office before, which means there are a lot of question marks surrounding her bid for the open Georgia Senate seat. The Democrat answered one of those questions with an impressive $1.7 million quarter. Nunn needs a nasty GOP primary to produce a flawed nominee to have a real chance. So far, she's doing the right things to put herself in a position to compete should that happen.

3. Liz Cheney: Cheney raised more than $1 million for her GOP primary challenge against Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.). That's a lot of money to have in a state where buying airtime is relatively inexpensive. And it's more than Enzi's $848,000 in the same period.

4. Ted Cruz: The conservative Texas senator raised nearly $800,000 for his joint fundraising committee -- almost double what he hauled in during the previous quarter. Taking his reelection committee and leadership PAC into account, Cruz raised almost $1.2 million. The conservative red meat Cruz dishes out puts off a lot of people. But the enthusiasm among his base -- the people who write checks -- only ramped up.

5. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: The DCCC brought in $8.4 million during September alone -- more than the combined total of the DSCC and NRSC. It has more than $21 million in the bank and raised $17.4 million in the third quarter. House Democrats face long odds in their effort to win back the majority. Healthy fundraising is a must-have.

6. Terri Lynn Land: The former secretary of state was not Republicans' first choice to run for retiring Michigan Sen. Carl Levin's seat. But as others have passed on the contest, it looks more and more like she is going to be the GOP nominee. She proved that she won't be a financial pushover for Rep. Gary Peters (D) last quarter, narrowly edging him out with her $1.05 million haul. Land gave her campaign an additional $1 million. As the emerging underdog in this race, Land will need every dollar she can get to have a chance.

Losers:

1. The Iowa Republican Senate field: A packed field with no clear frontrunner produced no clear winners in the money chase last quarter, either. As the Iowa Republican noted, neither David Young nor Sam Clovis could  break $150,000. And state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), who Gov. Terry Branstad (R) has nothing but good things to say about, raised only $250,000. On the Democratic side, Rep. Bruce Braley raised more than $900,000.

2. Bill Cassidy:  The Republican congressman raised just under $700,000 during the third quarter, a bit more than half of what Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) brought in. This is one of the GOP's best pickup opportunities, but Cassidy's fundraising has been unsteady this year.

3. Mike McIntyre and David Rouzer: Does anyone want to win North Carolina's 7th district? McIntyre is one of the cycle's most vulnerable Democratic incumbents, yet he raised just $189,000. And the Republican Rouzer only raised $92,000. As Roll Call notes, strategists argue this district is not a wealthy one, but for such a competitive seat, the figures are lower than expected.

4. Matt Bevin: While McConnell and Grimes put up big third-quarter numbers, Bevin raised just $222,000 and loaned himself $600,000 more. Bevin's camp noted that Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) were in the same ballpark early in their upset campaigns, but our wager is that McConnell is a tougher opponent that Charlie Crist or Robert Bennett. There is no shortage of conservative activists or groups bent on taking down McConnell. But to do so, Bevin will need a lot more backup, especially with two other fundraising behemoths in the race. Bevin got the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund on Friday. Keep an eye on his fourth-quarter support to see how much of a boost that gives him.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Chris Cillizza · October 18, 2013