Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Max Baucus Has a Challenger. Can he compete financially?

Roll Call this morning broke the news that former Montana State Senator and 2012 gubernatorial candidate, Corey Stapleton, is running for the chance to take on Democratic Senator Max Baucus. Stapleton came in second place behind eventual nominee Rick Hill with 18 percent of the vote in June's primary. Some have said that Stapelton's showing was surprising in that he eked out well-known conservative Ken Miller by a bit more than 100 votes. Here's a copy of his web announcement:

Stapleton served as a state senator, so political scientists would label him a quality challenger. He has three important hurdles to overcome. First, I'm sure his name recognition went up during the gubernatorial campaign, but Montanans likely still don't know him well. Second, he'll have to clear the field of other Republican candidates--and to do so he'll have to raise a substantial sum of money quickly to demonstrate his seriousness as a candidate. The third challenge is overcoming the significant money advantage Max Baucus already has should Stapleton get the Republican nomination. Roll Call recently released the fourth quarter FEC filings for incumbents, which I retweeted yesterday. The link is here. Senator Baucus raised $611,000 in that quarter and is sitting on nearly $3.6 million in cash. Of the Democratic incumbents listed in competitive elections, only Senator Landrieu (D-LA) raised more (and she raised just north on $1 million). Of the Democratic incumbents listed, only Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) had more cash on hand ($3.7 million). If Max Baucus can match Senator Tester's fundraising, expect to see those quarterly numbers to jump above the $1 million mark soon. Tester raised $13 million for the 2012 campaign. I expect we'll see Max match or likely exceed that number.

To be competitive, Stapleton need not raise more than Baucus. He only needs to raise enough--probably in the neighborhood of $10 million. Can he do it and can he clear the field of other Republican challengers? We'll see.

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