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Schumer’s on the Money

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) continued to prove himself the most prolific fundraiser of the 2004 class, bringing in $2.5 million between July and December and stowing away $13.6 million, new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission showed. Although Schumer’s cash-on-hand total was more than double the war chest of any of his colleagues, 16 of the 34 Senators expected to stand for re-election next November showed more than $1 million in their campaign coffers, including perennially well-funded Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), $6.6 million; Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), $5.9 million; and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), $4 million.

While he hardly came close to Schumer’s performance, Democrats were undoubtedly cheered to see that Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) had raised $191,000 between July 1 and Dec. 31 and retained $933,000 on hand at the end of the year. Hollings’ fundraising activity, while unlikely to put retirement rumors to rest completely, certainly showed that the seven-term Senator is engaged in the process and is at least considering another campaign.

Hollings’ fundraising stood in marked contrast to that of Rep. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is considered a certain Senate candidate regardless of Hollings’ intentions.

DeMint brought in just $46,000 over the last six months of 2002 and had a meager $3,000 on hand.

DeMint is hard at work putting together a statewide finance team modeled after the successful effort of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in 2002 and hopes to show a large number in his March 31 report, sources familiar with the Congressman said Wednesday.

DeMint’s decision to take money from political action committees in the race, which he did not do in his three House runs, demonstrates that he understands the importance of matching Hollings financially if he hopes to win, a source noted.

Several other Senators mentioned as potential retirees did little in their fundraising to dispel the rumors.

Chief among them was Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), who raised $40,000 in the final six months of 2002 and had just $93,000 on hand.

Campbell has been urged by the White House to run again, and some of his activities give the impression that he might be leaning that way, such as hiring two in-state fundraisers and buying a new truck to use in parades and campaign-style events.

If Campbell bows out, a number of Democrats have been mentioned as potential candidates, including Rep. Mark Udall, state Attorney General Ken Salazar, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and former Sen. Gary Hart. Gov. Bill Owens would be the Republicans’ preferred choice.

Arizona Sen. John McCain (R) continued to baffle political prognosticators by raising just $38,000 and finishing with $5,000 on hand in his year-end report despite assertions by his political advisers that he is “all but certain” to seek a fourth term.

Marshall Wittmann, McCain’s spokesman, reiterated Wednesday that the Senator is “strongly inclined” to run again.

As evidence, Wittmann pointed to a scheduled Feb. 20 fundraiser in Phoenix, which will be the first event aimed at raising money for McCain’s Senate campaign committee since 1998.

If McCain runs he is unlikely to face a serious challenge in either the primary or the general election.

Conservative Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has been mentioned as a primary challenger to the maverick McCain but seems unlikely to risk a budding House career on a long-shot bid.

Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) raised only $57,000 from July to December and after passing on a 2003 gubernatorial bid remains on Democrats’ list of possible retirees.

“Senator Breaux doesn’t generally raise money when he is not in cycle,” said a spokeswoman for the Senator.

“He is not announcing for re-election and doesn’t plan to anytime soon,” she added.

Breaux is viewed as all but unbeatable if he runs again. If he bows out, the most oft-mentioned contenders are Reps. Chris John (D) and David Vitter (R).

John ended the year with $516,000 in the bank; Vitter had $931,000 on hand.

Although Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) raised just $56,000 for his campaign account, sources familiar with the Senator said his personal fundraising totals are not indicative of his future plans. They note that Nickles raised more than $4 million for the party last cycle and had $414,000 in the bank without a competitive Democratic challenger on the horizon.

A number of other Senators expecting to face competitive races in 2004 did their best to scare off would-be challengers with their fundraising over the past six months.

After a lackluster fundraising performance in 2001, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) brought in more than $2 million in 2002, including $878,000 from July through December. She ended the year with $1.4 million on hand. Boxer raised $15 million in her 1998 victory over state Treasurer Matt Fong (R).

Of the three Republican Members contemplating the race, Rep. Doug Ose had the largest cash-on-hand total — $488,000. Reps. Darrell Issa and George Radanovich had $244,000 and $236,000 in the bank, respectively.

All three have personal wealth as well. Issa, a car-alarm magnate, spent more than $12 million on an unsuccessful 1998 Senate primary.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) raised $832,000 over the past six months and banked $1.3 million, perhaps sending a shot across the bow of Republicans contemplating the race.

Feingold won his 1998 race with 51 percent, one of the cycle’s closest races, after being outspent by $500,000 by then-Rep. Mark Neumann.

Rep. Paul Ryan and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, a former Wisconsin governor, have been talked about as GOP candidates, though neither has shown any willingness to consider the contest.

Democratic Sens. Thomas Daschle (S.D.) and Chris Dodd (Conn.), both of whom actively contemplated entering the presidential field during the filing period, also posted extremely strong fundraising totals.

Daschle, who decided against a White House bid Jan. 7, raised $540,000 in the period with $1.5 million in the bank.

Former Rep. John Thune (R-S.D.), who spent better than $6 million in his 2002 challenge to Sen. Tim Johnson (D), ended the year with just $8,000 on hand. Thune, however, has not ruled out a race against Daschle and recently set up his own consulting firm in Sioux Falls.

Dodd raised $801,000 in the period with $1.6 million in his war chest. He has not yet nixed a presidential race but is not seen as a likely contender.

The other two Democratic Senators involved in the presidential sweepstakes who are up for re-election in 2004 — John Edwards (N.C.) and Bob Graham (Fla.) — posted less impressive totals in their campaign committees as their fundraising attention was obviously elsewhere.

Edwards brought in $258,000 and spent $848,000, leaving him with $1.4 million on hand.

Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who is expected to shortly announce his Senate candidacy, raised $277,000 from July to December and had an impressive $1.7 million on hand.

Graham’s low fundraising totals ($127,000 raised, $243,000 on hand) were more inexplicable than Edwards’ because Graham has not yet formed a presidential exploratory committee to raise money for a national race.

Graham underwent heart surgery Jan. 31 and is expected to make a final decision on the presidential race within the month.

If Graham vacates his Senate seat, several well-funded candidates, including Reps. Mark Foley (R) — $1.7 million on hand — and Rep. Peter Deutsch (D) — $2.5 million — are poised to run.

Sara Faiwell and Raya D. Widenoja contributed to this report.

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