In addition to being tax day, April 15 was the deadline for federal campaign committees to file their first fundraising report of 2014.
The amount of activity contained in these reports helps us speculate about what implications these numbers may have with respect to the 2014 elections.
Power of Incumbency – One of the most obvious signs of these early reports demonstrates is the advantage of being an incumbent. This past January, eighty-one freshman members of the US House were sworn in. Of those eighty-one, twenty-five raised over $250,000 in the first quarter of this year. Many of these incumbents are expected to be somewhat vulnerable heading into the next election. Challengers simply do not have the resources and apparatus to raise the kind of money that incumbents can at such an early point in the election cycle; many of them have yet to even declare their candidacy.
Therefore, incumbents have the benefit of a de facto head-start in the fundraising race. Only a handful of vulnerable members have opponents eighteen months before the next election. This means that incumbents often have somewhere between a $300,000-$500,000 head start before they even have a declared opponent.
A Glimpse of the Future – These numbers may also provide insight into whether an incumbent is considering a run for higher office in 2014.
House members Gary Peters (D-MI) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) are two potential examples of this. Peters proved his fundraising ability by netting $371,000, and in turn, demonstrated that his legitimacy as a possible contender to replace the retiring Senator Carl Levin (D-MI). Cotton is rumored to be considering a challenge to Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR); he raised $526,000 over the past three months, which places him at the front of the pack for Senate challengers.
These reports also show the opposite; that some incumbents are not ready or willing to make a run for higher office. Many in the Tea Party had dreams of Steve King (R-IA) running for the open Senate seat in his state, even though the Republican establishment was rooting for his colleague Tom Latham (R-IA). Latham seems to have won this round by raising $300,000 – more than three times what King raised(amounting to just under $93,000).
Thinking about a Comeback? – We can also look at the reports of members who lost in November to see who is plotting a comeback bid. The quickest way to identify a candidate not considering a bid is to look at who has terminated their campaign committees. Already over 100 campaign committees from 2012 have closed including defeated incumbents on both sides of the aisle.
We can also look at committees that remain open to see who might be thinking of a comeback or considering retirement. The outspoken former Congressman Allen West is likely not considering another bid; his committee transferred $400,000 from his committee to his non-profit foundation. There are also signs from losing candidates that might be considering another bid. Those committees tend to hold onto as much of their cash-on-hand as possible and spend on some limited expenses like polling, fundraising, and paying down debt that could inhibit a future run.
By Nick Daggers, Vice President, Fundraising