Some of this year's biggest House and Senate races will come one step closer to being decided today, when voters head to the polls for primaries in four states. Federal candidates are required to file pre-primary reports with the FEC listing the status of their campaigns' funds as of 20 days before the primary. A look at what the candidates have spent and how much they have left on hand can provide a glimpse of what is to come in the general election, if the candidates can get voters on their sides.
Colorado features one of the most-watched Senate races in the country, in which the incumbent, Democrat Michael Bennet, faces a challenge from Andrew Romanoff for his party's nomination. The race has split Democrats on a national level, with President Obama stumping for Bennet and Romanoff receiving an endorsement from former President Bill Clinton. According to pre-primary reports, which show activity up until July 21, Bennet has spent $5.9 million on his reelection bid, over three times the amount spent by Romanoff. Yet despite having the fundraising and name recognition advantages that come with incumbency, Bennet is running evenly in the polls with Romanoff. A July 30-31 SurveyUSA poll showed Romanoff with 48 percent of the Democratic vote, versus 45 percent for Bennet--a gap within the 4.3 percent margin of error. [See which industries give the most to Bennet.]
On the Republican side, the outcome is also uncertain. The July SurveyUSA poll showed Republican Ken Buck leading former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, 50 percent to 41 percent. Buck has attained this lead while spending only $820,116, according to pre-primary reports, less than one-third of Norton's total expenditures. However, both candidates have nearly equal amounts of cash on hand, with $459,628 for Norton and $437,530 for Buck.
This means that, if Romanoff wins the primary, he may have to work overtime at fundraising to compete with his Republican opponent. Pre-primary reports showed Romanoff's campaign had $166,584 on hand, less than one-tenth of Bennet's $1,823,928. However, Romanoff has already shown a determination to close this gap. In late July, he sold his house for $360,000 and loaned $325,000 of the proceeds to his campaign fund.
Of Colorado's seven House districts, the fourth is considered the most competitive, with several poll analysts rating it a "toss-up." Republican Cory Gardner is expected to win the Republican primary, and with it, the chance to face Democratic Rep. Betsy Markey. Yet Markey enjoys a typical incumbent fundraising advantage. As of July 21, Gardner had $734,770 on hand, half the amount that Markey reported. [See where Markey's campaign cash comes from.]