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Speaking of 2008 …

Senators, Potential Successors Stock Up for the Next Cycle

Fundraising has become almost a full-time job for politicians so it should come as no surprise that Senators who are not up for re-election until 2008 spent a fair bit of the summer squirreling away money for their next campaigns.

Led by those with presidential aspirations and those who hope to ascend in the Senate hierarchy, the 21 Republican and 12 Democratic Senators who will face voters in November of 2008 were overall a prodigious bunch.

An examination of third-quarter campaign finance reports reveals that only a dozen of

those 33 Senators did not raise at least $100,000 for the period that ended Sept. 30, while two raised more than $1 million each.

As for cash on hand, nine Senators had more than $1 million.

Leading the pack in fundraising was Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) with $1.8 million collected. But the 2004 Democratic nominee who is eyeing another presidential bid was also the biggest spendthrift and ended the quarter with roughly $300,000 in the bank.

The bulk of Kerry’s money went to maintaining the significant network he built while running for president.

“The vast majority of his Friends of John Kerry account operating expenditures have been used to communicate with this national network about critical issues facing the country and to secure support for campaigns to help Democrats running in 2005 and 2006,” said Kerry’s campaign spokeswoman, Katherine Lister.

Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — who was the quarter’s second biggest fundraiser — was a much better saver than Kerry. McConnell, who is likely to ascend to the Majority Leader post in the 110th Congress, had almost $2 million in his kitty, placing him second in overall available cash.

Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) stashed the most money, with $2.4 million in reserve. After Durbin and McConnell, freshman Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) had the most in the bank with $1.8 million. He was followed by another freshman, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) who put $1.4 million in his war chest.

Rounding out the top five in cash on hand was Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) at $1.34 million.

Smith was a top target in 2002 and still carries significant personal debt from his 1996 campaigns.

Smith, who is personally wealthy from the frozen-vegetable processing plant his family owns, loaned his back-to-back 1996 campaigns $2.2 million. Smith lost a special election in January 1996 to replace Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), who resigned. He then won an open seat that November.

Smith terminated two old campaign accounts and repaid himself $30,000 last quarter. For the cycle, he has reimbursed himself $637,500.

Smith was the fifth best fundraiser last quarter, hauling in more than $400,000.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who could have a rough re-election, came in third in the money chase, raising $520,000 and banking $1.1 million.

While the freshmen and possibly vulnerable Senators up in 2008 were busy hauling in money, their would-be challengers in the House were doing the same.

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who is seen as a potential Durbin challenger, banked $1.2 million last quarter.

Republicans would love to see freshman Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) take on Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) in 2008 and he has the makings of a war chest to do it. Jindal socked away $1.2 million but is probably as likely to seek the governorship in 2007 as he is the Senate.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) passed on challenging Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) next year but she may not let Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) off as easily if the wealthy incumbent seeks re-election in 2008.

Capito had $505,000 in the bank as of Sept. 30 — about half the nearly $1 million Rockefeller has.

Several of the 33 Senators up in 2008 are on politicos’ retirement watch list and their eager House counterparts are raising money just in case.

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) limited himself to serving only two terms and his lackluster fundraising indicates that he will abide by it.

He raised just $14,000 for the quarter and banked a little more than $100,000.

Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who already has announced his intention to run for Allard’s seat in 2008, raised $165,000 in the quarter and had $850,000 in reserve.

Similarly, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) could vacate his seat to seek the presidency in 2008. While his fundraising is still active — he had $1.3 million in the bank — he could transfer his Senate cash to a presidential account.

Waiting in the wings is Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.). Many believe the state’s lone Congressman is a natural to ascend to the Senate if Biden leaves, and the heft of his war chest — especially considering that he is not expected to have a tough race next year — seems to bear that out.

Castle raised $136,000 for the quarter and had almost $1.1 million cash on hand.

More than half of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation was ramping up for an open-seat contest to replace Kerry this year if he had been elected president in 2004. Most of them are still waiting and still sitting pretty considering the ramped-up fundraising operations they launched last summer.

Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass.) had nearly $5 million in the bank while Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) saved up about $2.4 million. Not too far behind was Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), who had close to $1 million cash on hand.