By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 19, 2010; A02
Money matters massively in politics.
You knew that already, didn't you? But the numbers tell a story every time, and so it's worth looking at them every time. Like it or hate it, how much cash a candidate can collect in the run-up to an election is a good -- though far from perfect -- indicator of success at the ballot box. Money buys television ads and direct-mail appeals and helps candidates and their campaigns hone voter lists to ensure every available supporter turns out when Election Day rolls around.
And so, when candidates for federal office reported their contributions and expenditures for the past three months late last week, the Fix put on our green accountant visor -- doesn't everyone have one of those lying around? -- grabbed our calculator and began tabulating those who won and those who lost over the most recent quarter of fundraising.
Here's what we came up with. (Check the Fix online at http://washingtonpost.com/thefix for an extended version of this list.)Winners
Barbara Boxer: The California Democrat knows she is in a tough race this cycle against self-funding former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina, and she is acting accordingly. Boxer raised $4.6 million between April 1 and June 30 to take home the crown for best quarter from any Senate incumbent or challenger. She ended last month with $11.3 million on hand and is likely to need every cent of it, as polling shows a tight race.
Rob Portman: The former Ohio congressman, Office of Management and Budget director, and U.S. trade representative is, um, well connected in national Republican circles. And it shows in his fundraising: Portman collected $2.7 million over the past three months and has nearly $9 million in the bank to spend in the stretch run of his bid for the seat of retiring Sen. George Voinovich (R). Portman's numbers are all the more impressive when compared with those of Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, his Democratic opponent, who ended June with just $1.3 million in the bank.
Nevada television stations: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's fundraising machine continued to churn in the second quarter as the Nevada Democrat took in $2.4 million and banked $8.9 million. Former state assemblywoman Sharron Angle, who won the Republican nod in June despite raising a pittance compared with her primary opponents, proved she was a fundraising force to be reckoned with by collecting $2.6 million. Combine those numbers with all the "independent" groups already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the state and it's probably time to start thinking about adding that addition to your house if you own a TV station in the Silver State.
Steve Stivers: In 2008, Stivers, a Republican state senator, came within 1,000 votes of winning the Columbus area 15th District. Heading into a rematch against Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy (D) this fall, Stivers has to like where he stands; he collected $581,000 in the second quarter to just $261,000 for Kilroy and now has a nearly $300,000 cash-on-hand edge over the incumbent.
Walt Minnick: The Idaho Democratic congressman represents one of the most Republican House districts in the country. (President Obama won just 36 percent of the vote there in 2008.) And yet, at the end of June, Minnick had $1.1 million in the bank while state Rep. Raul Labrador (R) showed $69,000 in cash on hand. That's a cash edge of 16 to 1 -- but who's counting?Losers
Alexi Giannoulias: A year ago, Giannoulias, the Democratic state treasurer of Illinois, made a fundraising splash -- bringing in better than $1 million in less than a month for his fledgling Senate campaign. Fast-forward 365 days and the news is far less good. Giannoulias, who has struggled to put the closure of his family's bank this spring behind him, raised only $900,000 in the past three months -- well less than half of the $2.3 million collected by Rep. Mark Kirk (R), who himself struggled through a bad patch thanks to his repeated misstatements about his military résumé. Both men have major weaknesses as candidates, but Giannoulias's falling behind in the money race is an ill omen for Democrats trying to keep Obama's old Senate seat in their hands.
Democratic Senate challengers: Democrats have been hoping for months that in one of three states currently held by a Republican incumbent -- Louisiana, North Carolina or Iowa -- their candidates might show some signs of momentum. No such signs were evident in the second quarter as Sens. David Vitter, Richard Burr and Chuck Grassley all far outdistanced their Democratic rivals in the cash dash. Of the three, Louisiana still looks most promising for Democrats, however, as Vitter's personal problems could transcend the power of money.
Doug Hoffman: Remember him? Apparently donors don't either. Hoffman, who became a national story when he drove Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava out of the November 2009 special election riding a surge of national conservative support, isn't generating that same sort of excitement in his re-run race. Hoffman collected just $83,000 in the last three months and badly trails his Republican primary opponent in cash on hand.
With just 106 days between now and the midterm elections, the winners here have greatly increased their likelihood of having a happy Nov. 2. As for the losers . . . draw your own conclusions.
Staff writer Aaron Blake contributed to this column.