Twelve sitting senators chose not to run for re-election in the 2010 election, allowing new candidates to duke it out over their seats. Political watchers are now wondering how many of the Senate seats up for grabs in 2012 will also be open contests. Of the 33 senators up for re-election in two years, several have stated their intentions to run in 2012, but many are remaining quiet. A number of factors can contribute to the decision to defend one's Senate seat, from practical considerations like age to the political atmosphere in a senator's home state. Wisconsin's Herb Kohl and Utah's Orrin Hatch, for example, saw their colleagues from their states fall in 2010--a reality that may not inspire confidence for 2012 runs. [See where Kohl's campaign cash comes from.]
Campaign finance data can provide early indications of how candidates are--or aren't--preparing for 2012. The six-year Senate election cycle gives candidates ample time to amass money for their campaigns, and though fundraising usually grows more intensive as Election Day approaches, large financial resources early on can signal a candidate getting primed for another election fight, whereas low totals may indicate an incumbent less interested in re-election.
Topping the list of well-moneyed 2012 incumbents is Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who had over $6 million on hand (and only $158,000 in campaign debts) after his January victory in the special election for the seat previously held by the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, with $3.7 million, and Florida Democrat Bill Nelson, with $2.9 million, are behind Brown. Feinstein has indicated that she would run again, whereas Nelson has not. At the bottom of the list are Kohl and Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, neither of whom have made any statements about their 2012 plans. However, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka, with just under $76,000 in the bank, has said that he plans to seek another term. [See where Brown's campaign cash comes from.]
It is important to note that a low campaign account balance is by no means a definitive indicator of a retiring politician. Some candidates, for example, simply do not need as much money to run as others; states like New York and California, which have expensive media markets, require more cash. Meanwhile, a candidate in Wyoming can typically mount a campaign with a smaller amount of money. Likewise, incumbents in reliably red or blue states, like Ben Cardin in liberal Maryland and Roger Wicker in conservative Mississippi, may not need to fight very hard to retain their seats.
Below is a list of the Senators up for reelection in 2012, with the amount of money they reported in their campaign accounts on their latest FEC filings.
|Senator||Party||State||Cash on Hand (most recent reported)|
|Kay Bailey Hutchison||R||TX||52,054|
Source: Federal Election Commission