Similar Challenges In Bicoastal Senate Races

Similar Challenges In Bicoastal Senate Races

By Kyle Trygstad - July 20, 2010

They're running on different party lines and in states on opposite sides of the country, but Carly Fiorina and Elaine Marshall now find themselves in similar situations -- challenging an incumbent and coming off competitive primary campaigns that have put them at significant financial disadvantages.

Fiorina, a California Republican, and Marshall, a Democrat in North Carolina, are running in states that often tilt toward the opposite party, yet they're also up against senators that are polling poorly and considered vulnerable. Still, unlike the two challengers, fundraising reports released last week show both Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) have had the luxury of saving up their money to unleash over the last several months.

While Fiorina was battling two others in the June 8 GOP primary, Sen. Barbara Boxer was hosting the president for fundraisers in L.A. and San Francisco. She raised an impressive $4.6 million from April through June, and over a six-week period from May 20 to June 30, Boxer collected $2.6 million and began July with $11.3 million on hand.

In the same time period, Fiorina raised $1.4 million. After the primary, however, her coffers dwindled and by the end of June had just less than $1 million left. The primary also forced Fiorina to loan her campaign $5.5 million, something she never planned on doing.

Her campaign isn't completely shutting the door on the possibility of Fiorina loaning more of her personal money for the general election, but at this point that is not part of the equation.

"We're confident we'll be able to raise the money we need, and polls show just how viable a race this is for Carly," Fiorina spokeswoman Andrea Saul told RealClearPolitics. "As voters realize that this is very winnable, I believe our support will continue to grow."

Personal wealth is a luxury Marshall, a four-term secretary of state, does not have. She's in a similar hole to Burr, who's running for a second term in office two years after Democrats swept the top statewide races.

Marshall won 36 percent of the vote in the May 4 Democratic primary, 4 points shy of winning the nomination outright. That extended the primary process by seven weeks, forcing her to nearly empty her campaign account before easily defeating Cal Cunningham in the June 22 runoff -- eight days before the reporting period ended.

By June 30, Marshall had just $163,000 on hand, a paltry sum for a statewide candidate anywhere, but especially one running against a well-funded and connected incumbent senator. Burr reported having $6.3 million by the end of June.

Despite the national party's preference for a different candidate to challenge Burr, the Marshall campaign believes it will receive some help as it rebuilds its war chest for the general election.

"We've had very productive conversations with folks at the White House and at the DSCC," Marshall communications director Sam Swartz told RCP. "They're fully on board and they want to help. Now we're just working out the details."

The Marshall campaign is also buoyed by Burr's inability to stabilize his polling numbers. The last three public polls released have shown him with 46 percent support, 52 percent and 38 percent. Any incumbent polling under 50 percent has reason for concern.

Boxer is in a similar situation, averaging around 46 percent in the last four public polls. Fiorina isn't far behind at about 43 percent.

Both challengers see paths to victory, but after depleting their campaign funds to survive the primaries, raising money is at the top of their to-do lists. And the races each have national implications -- winning California may be necessary for the GOP to win back the Senate, while North Carolina is the Democrats' best chance of picking up a Republican Senate seat and would help preserve the party's majority.

Kyle Trygstad is a Washington correspondent for RealClearPolitics. Email him at: Follow him on Twitter @KyleTrygstad.

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