A political fundraising report card

Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat appointed to the Senate, remains relatively obscure, but his money machine is world-class.
Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat appointed to the Senate, remains relatively obscure, but his money machine is world-class. (Melina Mara/the Washington Post)
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By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 1, 2010

Candidates for federal -- and most state -- offices were required to file their 2009 year-end fundraising reports over the weekend. Some shined, while others fumbled.

Here's a look at some of the cash-collecting winners and losers from the past few months.


Michael Bennet: Bennet, a Democrat appointed to the Senate in 2009, remains a virtual unknown to the people of Colorado and a target of Republicans, but his stellar fundraising ensures that he will be able to introduce -- and reintroduce -- himself in the coming months. Bennet brought in $1.16 million in the final quarter of 2009 and ended the year with $3.5 million in the bank. Former lieutenant governor Jane Norton, the likely Republican nominee, raised about a half of Bennet's total during the same time frame.

Marco Rubio: Rubio, the former speaker of the Florida state House, was almost forced from the race last year because of his inability to keep up with the fundraising prowess of Gov. Charlie Crist, the man he is challenging in August's Republican Senate primary. But Rubio has since become a conservative darling, and his fundraising has picked up as well. From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, Rubio raised $1.75 million, just short of the $2 million that Crist brought in.

John Kasich: The Republican former Ohio congressman raised more than $5 million for his gubernatorial campaign in just six months, an astounding showing that coincides with his rise in polls testing him against Gov. Ted Strickland (D). While Strickland's $2.8 milion raised during the same period was far less than what Kasich collected, the incumbent has a whopping $6.1 million in the bank, compared with $4.1 million for Kasich.

Pat Toomey: While the political world is focused on the coming Democratic primary battle between Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak, Toomey, a former three-term GOP congressman, continues to do everything right. Toomey raised nearly $1.7 million in the final three months of last year, roughly $500,000 more than fundraising dynamo Specter. Toomey, who has enjoyed strong support from national conservatives, ended 2009 with nearly $3 million in the bank.


Arkansas Republicans: There's no question that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) is among the most vulnerable incumbents in the country. But you wouldn't know it from the fundraising of her potential GOP opponents. State Sen. Gilbert Baker raised a measly $295,000 in the final three months of last year, and Rep. John Boozman, who is expected to announce his candidacy this week, closed the year with $292,000 in the bank. Lincoln, for her part, ended 2009 with more than $5 million tucked away.

Deval Patrick: Even before Sen.-elect Scott Brown's special-election victory last month in Massachusetts, Patrick, the Bay State's governor, was considered among the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents in the country. And Patrick was badly outraised by his likely Republican rival, businessman Charlie Baker, in 2009. While Patrick collected $1.3 million for the year, Baker brought in $2.3 million in just five months. Baker ended the year with $1.85 million in the bank to Patrick's $667,000. Not a good sign for Democrats.

Lee Fisher: Fisher, Ohio's lieutenant governor and the odds-on favorite for the Democratic Senate nomination, put together a very disappointing final three months of 2009 -- raising $780,000, a total dwarfed by the $1.4 million that former congressman and Bush administration budget chief Rob Portman (R) raised over the same period. Fisher, who has almost the entire Democratic establishment behind him, should do far better.

Kelly Ayotte: The former New Hampshire attorney general is the preferred Senate nominee of the national Republican establishment, and yet she isn't raising the sort of money that such support would suggest she could. Ayotte raised $630,000 from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 and ended 2009 with less than $1 million in the bank -- about $400,000 less than Rep. Paul Hodes (D), her likely general-election opponent. Of more immediate concern for Ayotte is businessman Bill Binnie, who donated $1.26 million from his personal coffers to support a primary challenge against her.

Speaking of speaking

For the third time in just over three months, the Republican National Committee is losing a top communications staffer. This time it's national spokeswoman Gail Gitcho, who is leaving to take over the press operation of Sen-elect. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).

"Gail is an experienced communications professional who is well known to the national and Washington press corps and has a reputation for being fair and responsive to reporters," Brown said in a statement announcing the move.

Gitcho, who did stints on the presidential campaigns of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) during the 2008 election cycle, joined the RNC in the spring of 2009.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele sought to put a happy face on the move, saying that "this is what happens when you have great staff." But, Gitcho's departure, which comes only months after RNC communications director Trevor Francis and deputy communications director Todd Irons also left their posts, is sure to be seen by some as a sign of the continued difficulties for Steele atop the national party committee.

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