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4 Things to Watch for in Third-Quarter Fundraising

Grayson's fundraising will show how much populist support is behind him for his Florida Senate bid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Grayson's fundraising will show how much populist support is behind him for his Florida Senate bid. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rival campaigns and political handicappers are anxiously awaiting third-quarter fundraising numbers — due this week — to assess the competitiveness of candidates and contests.  

The quarterly hauls will paint a picture of the kind of support and resources campaigns have — or lack. And as the window closes on recruiting candidates, these numbers could also be what makes top recruits decide to jump into races, or to sit them out.  

The reports cover the period from July 1 through Sept. 30. Members of Congress and candidates have until Oct. 15 to report numbers to the Federal Election Commission. In the meantime, here are the four things to watch for as reports trickle in:  

1. Will unendorsed Democratic Senate candidates prove the establishment wrong?  The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed a handful of candidates in top Senate pickup opportunities this cycle. The committee said the endorsed candidates have the best shot at victory in November 2016, when Democrats will seek to net five seats to ensure Senate control.  

Yet some candidates who didn’t receive the endorsement have criticized the DSCC. They include former Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp, who has publicly complained that the DSCC endorsed  Rep. Tammy Duckworth in the must-win Illinois race without hearing out why Zopp thought she’d be a good contender.  

Zopp’s complaints will mean little to nothing, however, if she doesn’t have the resources to compete. Zopp’s third-quarter haul, her first as a candidate, will determine whether she has a soap box to stand on.  

In Ohio, Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has also criticized the Democratic party establishment for backing former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in the primary. Both are seeking to face GOP Sen. Rob Portman in this competitive state next November.  

But Sittenfeld saw the fundraising faucet turn off  last quarter, after the DSCC endorsed Strickland. It would be notable if Sittenfeld found a way to find a new campaign revenue stream in the third quarter — or if his numbers continued to sag, making his nomination hopes look like even more of a long shot.  

2. Who will come out ahead in Florida’s crowded open-seat Senate race? The Sunshine State’s Senate seat, left vacant thanks to Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential bid, is one of the most crowded and contentious Senate primaries on either side of the aisle. The race is rated a Tossup by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call — a rating that could change depending on which candidates emerge as nominee next summer.  

On the Democratic side, the fundraising race between fellow Democratic Reps. Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson will be an early indicator for how competitive the primary contest will be.  

Murphy is backed by national Democrats, who say he has the kind of moderate profile to win statewide. He’s also proven to be an adept fundraiser, banking $2.5 million as of June 30.  

Grayson starts the race out with just $71,000 in cash on hand, as well as $2.4 million worth of debt from previous House races.  

But Grayson has a large fundraising network and his bombastic persona gets the attention of the national media. His quarterly haul will show whether he has the kind of populist support he claims, or if he’ll be forced to dip into his deep pockets to finance his campaign.  

On the Republican side, three of the four candidates running in the primary entered the race in the third quarter , meaning it will be the first time they will publicly report their fundraising numbers.  

As of the end of the second quarter, Rep. Ron DeSantis, who entered the race in May , had nearly $2 million in cash on hand. But the hauls of the other three candidates — Rep. David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and veteran Todd Wilcox — will show which candidates will have the kind of funds to compete in this expensive state.  

3. Did the money dry up for scandal-plagued congressmen? There are a handful of members of Congress facing a daunting dilemmas in 2016: There is both an official ethics investigation into their political activity and they face a serious primary or general election opponent.  

In California, Rep. Michael M. Honda is under investigation by the Ethics Committee for an alleged pay-to-play scandal in his congressional office. Honda eked out a win over Ro Khanna in a Democrat-on-Democrat race in 2014.  

He now faces a rematch with Khanna, a prolific fundraiser who outraised Honda in the second quarter. If that trend continues, Honda could be in serious trouble in his re-election bid.  

And in New Hampshire, a campaign finance scandal is dogging GOP Rep. Frank C. Guinta in the hyper-competitive 1st District. Guinta faces both a competitive primary with former University of New Hampshire Business School Dean Dan Innis, as well as a potential rematch with the Democratic foe he’s traded this seat with since 2010: former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.  

Guinta’s fundraising slowed in the second quarter, when the scandal broke. But it will be notable if his fundraising came to a halt in the third quarter.  

4. How much did senators increase their cash-on-hand advantage?  Three senators up for re-election in competitive states are still without top-tier opponents: Sens. Michael Bennet in Colorado, Richard M. Burr in North Carolina and Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire.  

Republicans appear close to landing a recruit in Colorado, while Democrats seem close to finding challengers in New Hampshire and North Carolina.  

In the meantime, all three incumbents in those states have been able to raise and stash away money for their bids. That cash could make the difference in their chances next fall.  


Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016

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