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With just hours to go before first-quarter reports are due to be filed with the Federal Election Commission, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) told home-state reporters Tuesday morning that, so far this year, his fundraising has gone “lousy.—

But the embattled Kentucky Republican, widely viewed as the most vulnerable Senator up for re-election in 2010, also said he’s optimistic that his fundraising is on the right track.

“If at first you don’t succeed, you try, try, try again. We’re working hard at it. Surprisingly, we’ve had pretty good success the last month,— Bunning said on a conference call, according to the Louisville Courier Journal.

Bunning said he’s optimistic about a few large April fundraisers featuring Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R).

By lowering expectations before his fundraising report becomes public, Bunning may be trying to avoid some of the criticism that he received in January after reporting a paltry $150,000 in his campaign account at the end of 2008. But some GOP operatives privately admit that they’ve lost confidence in Bunning’s ability to hold the seat in 2010 and a poor showing this quarter will likely only add to their concerns.

In recent weeks, Bunning has lashed out at his own party’s leadership for his fundraising woes. Last week, Bunning claimed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) are working to fuel doubts about his 2010 prospects in the minds of possible donors and actively working to undermine his campaign. Previously, Bunning has charged that Cornyn and McConnell have been working to recruit a primary challenger to run against him.

On the Democratic side, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway appears set to throw his hat into the Senate race, setting up a primary battle with state Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo, whom Gov. Steve Beshear (D) endorsed late last week.

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