Incumbents Work Overtime to Raise Campaign Cash

Democratic incumbents fill their campaign war chests as GOP challengers step up their games.


A few remarkably successful candidates are bringing up Republican totals. Ohio GOP nominee Rob Portman, for example, has raised $12.7 million to Democrat Lee Irwin Fisher's $5 million. Connecticut Republican Linda McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, has taken in $22.1 million, most of it her own money, over six times the total of her nearest Democratic- or Republican-primary challengers.

In Florida's three-way race, Republican Marco Rubio raised $4.5 million in the second quarter, a state record. This outstripped the second-quarter total for independent candidate and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who took in $1.8 million, as well as the total for the Democratic candidate, Rep. Kendrick Meek, who raised over $1 million in the quarter.

The House has perhaps an even greater chance of changing hands in November. The Cook Political Report, a Washington-based newsletter, currently lists 30 Democratic House seats as "toss-ups," as opposed to three Republican seats. Even some of the most well-established House members find themselves in this group, threatened both in the polls and in fundraising. In Texas's 17th District, GOP challenger Bill Flores narrowly outpaced 19-year Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards in second-quarter contributions, $613,143 to $609,707. Rep. Ike Skelton, in office since 1977, has two challengers in Missouri's 4th District who have more than 100 times the total of his 2008 challenger, who took in just $3,910. North Dakota Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy, a House member since 1993, is feeling the heat from Republican Rick Berg, who has more second-quarter cash on hand than any prior Pomeroy challenger. Pennsylvania's 25-year House veteran, Democrat Paul Kanjorski, took in $221,483 in the second quarter, $15,000 less than his Republican challenger, Lou Barletta.

One factor that can't be ignored in 2010 is the self-funded candidate. Several candidates in tight races, most famously Fiorina and McMahon, are largely self-funded. One top House fundraiser, Ohio Republican car dealer Tom Ganley, has loaned his campaign over $6.5 million, in hopes of defeating Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton.

Fundraising success doesn't guarantee victory but no doubt helps. Also important this year is the dissatisfied mood around the nation. Economic factors like high unemployment contribute to this discontent, creating a situation ripe for a power shift. Voter mood is "not just anti-incumbent. It's anti-Democratic incumbent," says Malbin. "It's not 'throw 'em all out.' It's 'throw out the party that's holding power.' "

While candidates continue to chase donors' money, discontent is the real currency for bringing change in Washington.

  • See a slide show of 11 hot races in November. .
  • See which industries give the most to Congress.
  • See who gets the most from the oil industry.