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Published: Friday, 7/16/2010

GOP bests Dems to raise cash for Senate races


WASHINGTON - Republicans are outraising Democrats in nearly a dozen open Senate races, raising their hopes of significantly narrowing the Democrats' majority in November.

In some cases, the differences are dramatic. In Ohio, Republican Rob Portman raised $2.6 million in the quarter that ended June 30, compared to about $1 million raised by Democrat Lee Fisher. Mr. Portman held a big cash-on-hand advantage: $8.8 million to $1 million, according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday. The two are seeking the seat vacated by Republican George Voinovich.

Fund-raising is more competitive in Kentucky, where GOP Sen. Jim Bunning is retiring. Rand Paul, who won a tough GOP primary, raised $1.1 million for the quarter. Democrat Jack Conway raised slightly less than that from donors, and he loaned his campaign $400,000. Neither campaign had more than $750,000 in the bank at the quarter's end.

Money separates the viable candidates from the also-rans, allowing hopefuls to run day-to-day operations and buy expensive TV ads. Cash also attracts more money from donors. Republicans need a net win of 10 seats to seize the Senate, and they're counting on well-funded candidates to deliver.

Most worrisome to Democrats is their lackluster fund-raising in states where their members are retiring.

In Illinois, Republican Mark Kirk raised $2.3 million, while Democrat Alexi Giannoulias raised about $900,000. Mr. Kirk had nearly four times more money in the bank.

In Indiana, where Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh is exiting, Republican Dan Coats raised $1.5 million in the quarter. Democrat Brad Ellsworth took in about $600,000, with a little more cash at the quarter's end.

Republicans are counting on rich self-funders in several states, such as Connecticut. Former pro wrestling magnate Linda McMahon has poured $21.5 million into her bid to succeed Democratic Sen. Chris Dodd. She said she had $3.2 million on June 30. Her likely Democratic rival, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, had $2.1 million after raising more than $1 million in the quarter.

Less wealthy Republicans are doing well too. In Pennsylvania, Republican Pat Toomey raised more than $3 million in the quarter, and had $4.6 million on hand. Democratic nominee Joe Sestak, who beat Sen. Arlen Specter in the primary, raised $1.9 million and had about $2 million on hand.

"The momentum we're seeing on the ground and in the polls is translating to strong financial support," said Amber Marchand, a spokesman for the GOP campaign committee.

Democrats say the picture isn't as grim as spending reports suggest. In Pennsylvania, Mr. Toomey had an easy primary.

And Democrats are doing better where they seek re-election.

In California, Sen. Barbara Boxer has an early fund-raising lead over GOP challenger and multimillionaire Carly Fiorina, raising $4.6 million in the quarter, ending up with $11.3 million in the bank. Ms. Fiorina had $953,000 left after the primary.

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