VA-Sen: GOP Fundraising Woes

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.

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A blow to Tom Davis... and to House Democrats!

The Republican Party's Virginia Central Committee just voted 47-37 to settle on its nominee for the open Senate seat at a party convention rather than through a primary. This is a blow to Rep. Tom Davis and a victory for former Governor Jim Gilmore.

Full analysis here, at Campaign Diares.

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VA-Sen: The Republican Nominee May Have Just Been Decided

This morning, the Virginia GOP's Central Committee, made up of 85 statewide Republican activists, met to decide whether the state would hold a primary or a convention to decide the Republican nominee for senate next year. They chose a convention.

Virginia Republicans will hold a convention rather than a primary next year to choose their candidate to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. John W. Warner.

The state party's central committee voted 47-37 on Saturday in favor of a convention. No date or location was decided.

Supporters of a convention argued that it's more economical and the party would avoid a divisive public squabble between GOP rivals in a primary.

The decision was hardly free of politics, however. From The Politico:

[Congressman Tom] Davis and his allies were lobbying for a primary, while his likely GOP opponent, former governor Jim Gilmore preferred a convention. Conservative activists dominate the GOP conventions, and Davis' home base of Northern Virginia is usually under-represented among GOP activists. By contrast, anyone can vote in a GOP primary - including Democrats - because the state does not register voters by party.

So, not only does this decision, as James at Raising Kaine says, make it much less likely that Tom Davis will win the nomination, but it actually makes it much less likely that he'll jump in at all. From The Washington Post:

[The] vote by the 84-member Republican State Central Committee on whether to hold a convention or primary in June could play a major role in whether Davis enters the Senate race.

The Politico concurs:

Davis has said that a primary was crucial for his campaign, so he could increase his name recognition outside of Northern Virginia.  Some political observers have questioned whether he will even jump in the race, given his obstacles for both the nomination and in the general election.

Thus this morning's decision is somewhat bittersweet, for if it does prevent Davis from running for senate, that means we lose the opportunity to take his very winnable northern Virginia congressional seat but at the same time, a Gilmore candidacy makes a Warner victory all the more assured. For, while this week's WaPo poll shows Warner beating Davis more handily than he does Gilmore, Davis is far less well-known throughout the state and has much more room for growth. On the other hand, Gilmore, as a former governor, is well-known throughout the state so opinion of him is pretty well fixed; in fact, as the Washington Post poll makes clear:

Gilmore, a conservative who dropped out of the presidential race this year, could be hampered in a general election against Warner, because people's perception of Gilmore has worsened since he left the governor's mansion in 2002.

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VA-Sen, VA-Pres: Behold The Bluing of Virginia

The results of a new Washington Post poll (1,144 adults, incl. 993 RVs, Oct. 4-8, MOE 3%) out of Virginia provides the best evidence yet that this traditionally red state is shifting blue.

In the race for senate, while the Rasmussen Poll from a month ago showed Mark Warner with a lead against his most likely Republican rivals, former governor Jim Gilmore and Congressman Tom Davis, of 20% or higher, WaPo actually finds Warner is ahead by 30% or above.

Warner leads Gilmore 61 percent to 31 percent, a 2 to 1 margin replicated in nearly every region of the state. Warner leads Davis 63 percent to 28 percent.

In touting his own potential to beat Warner, Davis likes to say he has plenty of room to grow as only part of the state, his own district in northern Virginia, really knows him. But remarkably, even among his own constituents, Davis doesn't fare much better against Warner.

In vote-rich Fairfax County, where Davis argues that he would have more appeal than some recent statewide GOP candidates, Warner is up by 24 percentage points over the congressman (57 percent to 33 percent).

Warner's appeal against these potential Republican rivals is explained by his 67% favorability rating, which is remarkably consistent across party lines.

More than 7 in 10 Democrats have a favorable impression of the former governor, as do 69 percent of independents and 61 percent of the state's Republicans.

The senate race should become a bit clearer on Friday when the 84-member Republican State Central Committee decides whether to hold a convention or primary in June, 2008 to determine who the Republican senate nominee will be. The WaPo article suggests that Davis would benefit from a primary (versus a convention where several thousand GOP activists meet to decide the nominee) and in fact the impending decision by the committee may actually be the determining factor in whether Davis ultimately gets in the race.

Perhaps the most interesting result to come out of the WaPo poll, though, is this throw away line from the third paragraph, which goes unaccompanied by an actual numerical result (I assume it will be forthcoming tomorrow with the official release of the poll):

The Senate race will unfold against the backdrop of next year's presidential campaign, and the poll suggests that the state's 13 electoral votes could be up for grabs. By a margin of 11 percentage points, Virginians would prefer that the next president be a Democrat, indicating that even a reliably red state could flip in 2008.

Bush won the state by 8% in 2004.

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Senate Rankings: (Almost) Everything breaks for Democrats in October

September was a great month for Senate Democrats. Is started with news that John Warner was retiring, featured the endless saga of Larry Craig's guilty plea to lewd behavior, saw another crucial GOP seat open up in Nebraska and was marked with recruitment coups with the candidacies of Mark Warner in VA and Jeanne Shaheen in NH. In fact, the only bad news Democrats are fearing now is that Bob Kerrey might end up taking a pass in Nebraska -- but even there, the fat lady hasn't yet sung.


All of this is really icing on the cake for Democrats, who already felt great before Labor Day. Not only is the GOP is defending 22 seats, and the Dems only 12, but the NRSC has been doing poorly in fundraising and recruitment, failing to move to target states beyond... the one state of Louisiana. Democrats, on the other hand, are expanding the map left and right: While they are huge underdogs in TN, KY, NM, TX, and ID, odds are they will at least put one of those in play (just like VA in 2006 and KY in 2004 became competitive only in the last stretch). And the most problematic second-tier seat is turning to be Alaska, where incumbent Ted Stevens is facing significant bribery allegations.


The coming weeks are likely to bring more news that will determine how some of these races shape up. Bob Kerrey's decision is obviously what everyone is waiting for, but there are other important questions: Will Craig retire as he had promised? Will there be more open seats, with all eyes turned towards SD's Tim Johnson, AK's Stevens, and NM's Pete Domenici? Will Democrats find candidates to run against Dole in NC, Domenici in NM, Stevens in AK, McConnell in KY? All of these races could end up on the map, but Democrats have to succeed in their recruitment efforts first.


The first 4 states are listed after the jump. For the full rankings, go here, to CampaignDiaries.com.

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Diaries

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