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Chafee In No Hurry to Raise Cash

Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) may be in for the campaign of his life, but his latest Federal Election Commission report belies that fact.

The junior Senator from the Ocean State only raised $139,000 in the three-month period that ended March 31.

By contrast, one of his Democratic challengers, Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown, raised more than $500,000 in about six weeks. The other Democrat, former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, who only began his bid for the nomination March 30, wrote himself a $360,000 check.

Chafee ended the quarter with about $765,000 in the bank and having raised $1 million since winning his first term in 2000.

Despite the leisurely fundraising pace and Democrats’ desire to target him this cycle, Chafee’s operatives don’t seem overly concerned.

“Last time, he didn’t start [fundraising] until the summer of ’99 and he raised $2.3 million,” Chafee spokesman Stephen Hourahan said.

Republicans argued that Rhode Island is a small state, which does not necessitate the huge sums of money candidates in bigger states need to be successful.

Hourahan predicted that Chafee will only need to spend about $3 million this time.

Democrats said Chafee’s modest fundraising during a period in which he thought Rep. James Langevin (D), who led him by double-digits in two early polls, would challenge him should serve as a warning.

“It’s a sign of just how shallow his support is,” said Phil Singer, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman. “People in the state are catching on to the fact that he has an agenda in Washington that is quite different from the agenda they want him to have. The numbers are the latest in a number of signs that he’s going to have trouble holding onto his seat.”

Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently came to Rhode Island to help the moderate Chafee raise cash to the tune of about $50,000.

“It was not a major fundraiser,” Hourahan said of the event.

Chafee expected to rake in more during an event hosted over the weekend by the leadership political action committee of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), Hourahan said.

Chafee is ramping up his activities, Hourahan explained, with four major events on the calendar, including one in New York City to be headlined by Theodore Roosevelt IV, direct descendant of President Theodore Roosevelt, and other “major players,” he said.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee did not sound alarmed by Chafee’s lackluster quarter.

“Sen. Chafee has immense support from the leadership with Sens. McConnell, Frist and [NRSC Chairwoman Elizabeth] Dole [N.C.] — they will be very supportive financially as his campaign gears up,” committee spokesman Brian Nick said. “He’s definitely on track [and] where he needs to be.”

Chafee is considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans, as Rhode Island overwhelmingly supported Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) over President Bush in last year’s presidential campaign.

Chafee is the only Republican member of the state’s four-person Congressional delegation.

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