by Jonathan Singer, Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 12:27:09 PM EDT
The announcement that Republican Senator John Warner would not be seeking reelection in Virginia has objectively been a nightmare for the GOP, with presumptive Democratic nominee Mark Warner holding a 2-to-1 lead in polling against either of the leading Republican contenders, former Governor Jim Gilmore (the unpopular conservative) and Congressman Tom Davis (who is relatively more unknown and less conservative than Gilmore). If Republicans hoped to make up their deficit with money, they had better think again.
To begin, the National Republican Senatorial Committee doesn't have nearly the resources to dump the type of dollars into Virginia that would be required to move numbers in much of a meaningful way. As you might remember, as of the end of August the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee held about a $10 million advantage over the NRSC when debts and obligations are taken into account.
Mark Warner has yet to file his campaign finance report, and given the Senate's arcane rules that don't require electronic filings, we're not going to be able to sift through his numbers for some time. That said, the former Democratic Governor is known to be a rather prolific fundraiser and has the potential to give his campaign a kick-start with some of his large personal fortune as well.
The picture for Gilmore and Davis looks significantly worse. During the last quarter, Davis brought in about $222,000, a sum that sounds decent until you consider that he raised more than $600,000 in the first quarter and more than $400,000 in the second quarter, and that, what's more, Davis spent more than he brought in during the quarter. Gilmore doesn't look any better in this front (and in fact looks a lot worse). As of the end of July his presidential campaign was still mired in debt, and for the second quarter he brought in under $200,000, not the type of money required for a longshot presidential bid, let alone a top-tier Senate race. What's more, the donors Gilmore tapped for his abortive presidential bid cannot be hit up for money again in a Senate primary, meaning that he dried up the well for early money by raising and spending money from his closest friends and allies for his White House campaign.
Money doesn't mean everything in campaigns like this. But given that Mark Warner already holds such a large lead and will likely have a distinct early and longterm fundraising advantage over his GOP rivals, it's going to be terribly difficult for the Republicans to do enough to bring down Warner's numbers any time soon (if ever).
Update [2007-10-15 16:37:24 by Jonathan Singer]: I apparently spoke too soon on not getting numbers from Warner -- and the numbers that just came in via release are remarkably and ridiculously good. From The Hotline (subscription required):
Friends of Mark Warner (D) raised $1,109,080.69 between 9/13 and 9/30 (release).
A glance at Warner's Act Blue page shows more than $420,000 online alone (though that number includes donations since September 30).
And by the way... doing the math, $1.1 million over 18 days works out to something like $5.5 million over an entire quarter. Now I don't think folks expect Warner to be able to keep up with his torrid initial fundraising push. Nevertheless, $1.1 million in 18 days is nuts however you cut it.
Update [2007-10-15 18:57:35 by Jonathan Singer]: Davis has apparently also raised $78,000 specifically for a Senate run since September 14. But even when that number is combined with his House account, the total for the quarter is still dwarfed by the haul of Warner.