How Long Can Buck and Romanoff Keep the Lights On?

When fundraising numbers for Colorado’s U.S. Senate candidates were all announced earlier this week, it continued a rabid conversation about what individual reporting numbers mean for each campaign. Less discussed, but no less important, is whether or not each campaign is raising enough money just to keep the lights on.

As we’ve said before, fundraising reports are normally a reliable indicator of potential electoral success, because most large donors (people that give at least $500 to a candidate) write checks to the candidate that they believe is most likely to win.

But the other reason that fundraising is so important is for very fundamental purposes: You need a lot of money to both support a statewide campaign and to get your mug on television. It’s no secret that the candidate who does best on TV is often the candidate who ends up winning the election, so an effective campaign has to be able to pay for its day-to-day operations while also saving as much as possible (70-80% is a general rule of thumb) for television.

Obviously, a U.S. Senate race is a costly affair. In 2008, Democrat Mark Udall outspent Republican Bob Schaffer $11.7 million to $7.4 million. Now that the fundraising reports for the 2010 batch of Senate candidates are available, we thought it would make sense to look at just how much money they are going to need just to fund their campaign. The answers tell us a lot about which candidates are in a position to win, and which are just treading water right now.

In 2008, neither Udall nor Schaffer had a primary to worry about, yet both spent significant amounts of money in the first three months of the year on general campaign operations (staff, travel, office space, phones, copies, etc.) Here’s how those numbers stack up:

2008 U.S. Senate Race

Campaign Expenditures for Q1 (Jan. – March)

Mark Udall: $824,828

Bob Schaffer: $361,400

The 2004 election is a little more difficult to compare. Because incumbent Sen. Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell didn’t announce his retirement until March 2004, there isn’t any Q1 data from that year to compare. But take a look at the expenditures from the first report on the Republican side, which featured an expensive primary between Schaffer and Pete Coors:

2004 U.S. Senate Race (GOP Primary)

Campaign Expenditures for Q2 (April – June)

Pete Coors: $813,541

Bob Schaffer: $457,296

Now, back to 2010. Of the current field of candidates, only Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Jane Norton have cracked the $1 million mark in fundraising, and only those two candidates are currently raising enough money each quarter to allow them to both cover expenses and save for television (we don’t include Tom Wiens because he’s only had one quarter of ahem, fundraising). Here are the current “cash on hand” numbers for each candidate:

Michael Bennet (D): $3,482,581

Jane Norton (R): $595,563

Tom Wiens (R): $540,132

Andrew Romanoff (D): $480,000

Ken Buck (R): $276,000

Recent history shows that it costs at least $400,000 per quarter at this point to keep a strong campaign operation running. History also shows that if you don’t have a strong television buy, you can’t win; TV is still the most effective way to reach the large number of voters you need to win either a primary or a general election.

Given those two realities, it’s hard to see how Romanoff and Buck will be able to win their respective party’s nominations if they don’t significantly increase their campaign coffers, either through fundraising or self-funding. Unfortunately for both candidates, they have likely exhausted the low-hanging fundraising fruit at this point; most candidates have their strongest fundraising quarters early in their candidacies because the first people they call for money are the most likely to donate.

Both candidates have already brought in relatively highly-paid staff (Walt Klein for Buck and Celinda Lake, Joe Trippi, etc. for Romanoff), and both candidates have to staff up heavily now in order to do well at the caucuses. They are both going to have to spend a lot of money in the next few months, but neither is raising enough cash to do more than just cover those bills. And in Buck’s case, he’s not even raising enough to do that.

Look, we’re not saying that Romanoff and Buck won’t or can’t win in August — a lot can change in the next few months. But as it stands right now, the numbers don’t lie. When you combine their fundraising pace with both the money they need to spend on their campaign and the need to squirrel away funds for TV, there’s just no way that each campaign can stay in the black financially.

If Romanoff and Wiens can’t maintain a balance for heavy television advertising, then there is absolutely no way they can win in August. Buck is getting some help from outside interest groups, and perhaps Romanoff will get some outside help as well, but you can’t rely on those groups for your only televised outreach to voters; those ads should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

This fundraising quarter could, and should, be the most critical period for both campaigns. If Romanoff and Buck don’t significantly increase their warchests, there’s not going to be a happy ending for this story. Buck and Romanoff will probably stay in the race until the bitter end, but at this pace, they won’t be doing much when the end comes.

Big Numbers for Wiens, Not for Buck

As The Denver Post reports today, Colorado’s candidates for U.S. Senate will report vastly different results from the Q4 fundraising period:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet raised more than $1.1 million last quarter, nearly 3 1/2 times more than his Democratic opponent, Andrew Romanoff.

On the Republican side for the U.S. Senate seat, Jane Norton collected more than $550,000.

The campaign for Tom Wiens, the newest Republican candidate for the Senate, said it raised more than $725,000 but declined to give any details or say how much of the money came from the candidate…

…On the Republican side, Norton’s donations last quarter were nearly 14 times more than those of Ken Buck, whose campaign netted about $40,000, according to federal filings…

…Wiens’ campaign did not elaborate on the $725,000 besides saying it had about $550,000 on hand. Detailed contribution records for the period are not yet available.

“Those are the only two figures I have,” said campaign spokesman John Ransom.

Walt Klein, adviser to Buck’s campaign, said the low totals were the result of the splash Norton made when she entered the race last fall.

“It was a disappointment but not one that was unexpected,” Klein said. The campaign has more than $276,000 on hand.

Wiens has said before that he is prepared to put $500k into his own campaign, so it will be interesting to see how much of the $725,000 his campaign is reporting having raised came from the candidate himself. But whether Wiens dipped into his own bank account, raised the money or had it delivered by a magical fairy, $725,000 is still a lot of money. This result pretty much can’t help but put a few dents in Jane Norton’s ‘aura of inevitability.’

The biggest news from Q4 on the Republican side is the anemic $40,000 raised by Buck, whose spokesman termed it “a disappointment.” We wouldn’t call it a disappointment so much as a “disaster,” since most of Colorado’s congressional candidates pulled in much more than that in Q4.

While Buck does have the support of outside groups, we hear that Republicans who are supportive of Buck as a candidate are now starting to encourage him to run in CD-4. If Buck can only net $40,000 in a quarter, then he’s not ready to be a candidate for U.S. Senate, although he has shown the chops to be a strong candidate for another office.

Given the fact that Republican Cory Gardner continues to make stupid mistakes and has been weak to this point in his campaign against Democrat Betsy Markey, it’s no surprise that many Republicans view Buck as a better choice for that seat anyway. Buck has a natural base in Greeley, which is a major population center in the district, and his relatively weak fundraising would be less of an issue in a congressional race than a Senate primary with two big money opponents. Democrats would probably prefer that Buck stay in the Senate primary and make Wiens and Jane Norton spend every last penny that they raise, but we can’t disagree that it would make sense for a lot of reasons for Buck to switch gears.

Norton Praises 9/12 Groups, Glenn Beck Faithful

This video was just released showing U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton praising the Tea Party, 9/12 and Glenn Beck faithful. The video is supposedly from a Norton meeting with Morgan County Republicans on Nov. 2, which shows that Norton’s campaign was aware of the need to placate the Tea Party even before they were showing their anger towards her campaign. The video also shows that there apparently aren’t a lot of Morgan County Republicans, but we digress…

Pols Poll 2: U.S. Senate (Republicans)

As we’ve done in other election years, we regularly poll our readers on various races to gauge changing perceptions. These obviously aren’t scientific polls, but they do help to show how the perception of various candidates are changing. We’ll conduct these polls each month and then show the results to see how the winds are shifting.

As always, please vote based on what you think will happen, not on who you would vote for or which candidate you support personally. Think of it this way: If you had to bet the deed to your house, who would you pick?

Who Will Be the Republican Nominee for U.S. Senate?

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Pols Poll: U.S. Senate (Republicans)

With less than a year until the 2010 primaries, it’s time to start the annual Colorado Pols Polls.

As we’ve done in other election years, we regularly poll our readers on various races to gauge changing perceptions. These obviously aren’t scientific polls, but they do help to show how the perception of various candidates are changing. We’ll conduct these polls each month and then show the results to see how the winds are shifting (click to see the Democratic poll).

As always, please vote based on what you think will happen, not on who you would vote for or which candidate you support personally. Think of it this way: If you had to bet the deed to your house, who would you pick?

Who Will Be the Republican Nominee for U.S. Senate?

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You’re One To Talk

Whatever desire that Democrats may have to bring Senate candidate Jane Norton down to earth should not permit subsidizing the rants of Colorado’s greatest embarrassment since John Chivington. Noting very, very briefly what the Denver Post reports:

Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton will announce her candidacy for the U.S. Senate today, much to the chagrin of retired U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo.

Tancredo said he would not have had a problem if Norton earlier this year had called fellow Republicans statewide to say she wanted to run for the office and outlined her reasons.

Instead, he charged that Norton in recent weeks got talked into running by Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Norton family friend and political ally.

“Does John McCain have a right to do that? Sure. Do I have a right to (complain) about it? You bet,” Tancredo said in an interview Monday night. “Jane Norton is a nice lady who I like. End of story. But I fear she is not ready for prime time.”

Yeah, we’ll remember that next time you run for President on the “Send ‘Em Back” ticket. And why do we have the feeling that Tancredo wouldn’t be nearly so angry if McCain had suggested that he should run for Senate?

At least Post reporter Lynn Bartels had the sense to edit Tancredo for the print version, in the first version of this story he asks, “Do I have a right to bitch about it?”

If the messenger makes your skin crawl, it’s really hard to listen to what they say. Almost makes us wonder if he’s learned his lesson from the Sonia Sotomayor burn and is now using his ignominy to inversely boost the team…

You’re right. Not nearly smart enough for that.

Norton Reconsidering Senate Bid?

The hot rumor circulating this morning is that as-yet undeclared GOP Senate candidate Jane Norton had a deal–and now she doesn’t. And when the deal falls though, you usually walk away, don’t you?

As you know, evidence that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) was preparing to devote resources to Norton’s campaign–which would have had the effect of severely debilitating primary opponents–caused a major backlash among the Republican rank-and-file last week. By Friday, the situation had gotten to the point that the leading (declared) GOP candidate, Weld County DA Ken Buck, was widely reported to be getting out of the race.

Today, though, everything has changed–Buck is defiantly staying in the race. Colorado GOP chairman Dick Wadhams, who everybody we’ve talked to believes was intimately involved in the NRSC’s backroom commitments to Norton, is running away from this debacle as fast as his denials can carry him. The GOP activist base, now sensitized to what almost happened right under their noses, will be watching for any further shenanigans–and they’ve used this opportunity to remind leadership in no uncertain terms what they think of “RINOs” like Jane Norton.

So where does that leave her?

Frankly, it depends–if an agreement for Norton to enter the 2010 Senate race was contingent on clearing the primary field for her, as it was for 2008 Senate candidate Bob Schaffer, she’s now got a very good reason to reconsider. Or she could decide to stay and fight. Given that Norton has been floated as a potential candidate for higher office for years, and has always declined, it wouldn’t shock us if she ultimately decided not to run for Senate.

The word we’re getting–we’ll remind everyone that it’s only a rumor, though on good authority, and people do change their minds regardless–is the backlash of the last few days was considerably more than she bargained for.

The New-Look GOP Field for U.S. Senate

Republicans have lately been dropping in and out of the U.S. Senate race like it’s a student council seat, so we thought it time to take a new look at what’s what now that we’re past the 12 month mark until the primary.


  • Former Lt. Governor Jane Norton

  • Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck

    It’s been more than a decade since Colorado last had a female candidate running for a top job (Governor or U.S. Senate), and that gives Norton a big advantage because it makes her interesting. Political campaigns are about telling stories, and the best stories are the ones you haven’t heard before. Norton also has a good background to run on, has deep financial connections, and she’ll cut an attractive image on television.

    That doesn’t mean that Norton is without question marks, however. Norton has been mentioned as a potential candidate for everything from Governor to Congress in the last decade, but she always took a pass on what seemed at the time to be good opportunities. Was she just waiting for the right moment, and felt that 2010 was finally that time? Or is running for office something she really doesn’t feel in her gut? Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet has had two monster fundraising quarters, and it’s going to take a lot of effort to be able to catch up to him.

    As for Buck, he’s been working hard and was the only GOP candidate to raise any kind of legitimate money in the first fundraising period. He’s sufficiently conservative enough (and probably too far to the right, for a general election, frankly) to win a primary, but what’s the best-case scenario here? This was Buck’s nomination to lose until the GOP found someone better, which may have just happened with Norton. While Buck has been putting in the shoe leather and doing his damndest to make a real run at this, his ceiling just isn’t that high. Buck is what he is, but can he ever be more than that?


  • Former State Sen. Tom Wiens
  • When Wiens resigned from the Senate a few years ago, the working assumption was that he was going to devote himself full-time to a run for Governor. At the time, Wiens had the credentials and the personal wealth to make a strong bid in 2010, but a lot has changed in less than two years. For one thing, Wiens is widely rumored to be having personal financial troubles, which makes it tough to run statewide for dogcatcher. Wiens has also been off the grid for a little too long now; when he first resigned, he could have moved quickly into an exploratory campaign for Governor and kept his name ID and conservative credentials at the forefront of voter’s minds. But now?

    If everything lined up right, we think Wiens could be a potentially tough candidate. But it doesn’t look like anything is lining up correctly at this point, and we have real doubts that Wiens will even be an official candidate three months from now.


  • Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier
  • It made sense for Frazier to take a shot here-it really did. With no obvious candidate on the GOP side and a little-known incumbent, this was as good a year as there has ever been for an unknown candidate to emerge from nowhere. For a time Frazier had even managed to generate a good deal of excitement among a group of Republicans, but then reality hit. In his first full fundraising quarter, Frazier went out and laid an egg, raising a paltry $140k (compared to $330k for Buck and $1.2 million for Bennet). And that was that.

    Frazier’s campaign isn’t completely dead, but it’s definitely on life-support. His only real chance at winning the nomination was to come out strong and show people that he really had what it took to be a statewide player despite a tiny resume. When he didn’t do that, top GOP supporters started looking elsewhere.

    Someone who was just an Aurora city council member should never have even been considered for the U.S. Senate, and there was no harm in trying to seize the moment. But that moment has definitely passed, and with Norton’s entry into the race, there really isn’t room for Frazier anymore.

    And please, don’t mention that Frazier has done well in straw polls. Nobody cares.


  • Businessman Cleve Tidwell
  • Um, yeah.

    Beauprez’s Out, Which Means Norton’s In

    From Politics West:

    Former Congressman Bob Beauprez will not run for the U.S. Senate, he said in an email to supporters this afternoon.

    “Having been presented with the potential to serve in the United States Senate, Claudia and I considered it very carefully. However after significant reflection, I will not be a candidate for the Senate in 2010,” he wrote.

    His decision leaves four GOP candidates: Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, Evergreen businessman Dan Maes and Cleve Tidwell of Denver. Last week, the Denver Post reported that former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton is also looking at entering the GOP field.

    Let’s face it: Beauprez isn’t running because he looked around, considered various staffers, and finally realized what we’d been saying for a long time. He. Can’t. Win.

    It’s no secret that Beauprez has been wanting to get back into politics since 2006, but he’s still way too much damaged goods.

    Meanwhile, Jane Norton’s Senate bid is basically a lock at this point. Everybody’s talking about it. Democrats we’ve talked to this evening seem awfully confident, like they know something we don’t know. That’s likely to be the case for a majority of Colorado voters, a good percentage of whom probably think her first name is Gale. Though to be fair, voters could think her first name was “Ken,” and it’s still a positive for her. Name ID is name ID, especially in a GOP primary–and general election–where nobody knows anybody.

    And for all the buzz about “salvation,” we kind of doubt Ken Buck sees it that way–and he’s probably the one extant candidate we’re not writing off yet.

    UPDATE: We omitted Cleve Tidwell from our original post. We regret the error. Deeply.

    Who Might Win? (CD6)

    This is a little different than our polls yesterday (on CD-5, CD-4, and CD-2) and today’s poll on the U.S. Senate race.

    In this poll, we want to know who you think would win a primary in CD-6 if Rep. Tom Tancredo didn’t run again (which many Republicans anticipate).

    Click below to vote…

    Who Do You Think Would Win a CD-6 Primary?

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