WASHINGTON – Incumbent senators typically know how to raise money, and first-term New York Democrat Charles Schumer (search) did it on a large scale —$25 million through June.
Candidates making their first bid for the Senate often can't command that kind of cash, but Illinois Democrat Barack Obama (search) certainly held his own.
Obama, the Democratic National Convention's keynote speaker who could become the nation's fifth black senator, raised more than $10 million in his bid for an open Senate seat, according to early campaign reports filed with the Federal Election Commission Thursday.
Obama doesn't even have a Republican opponent. Rival Jack Ryan (search) abandoned the race after revelations about sex clubs, and former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka (search) rejected Republican entreaties to enter the contest less than four months before the Nov. 2 election.
Schumer's amount of $25 million not only dwarfs his Republican rival, challenger Howard Mills, who raised $451,000, it surpasses the top fund raising at this point in the 2002 midterm elections. The most prolific fund-raiser then was Republican Elizabeth Dole, who had raised about $8 million through June 2002 on her way to winning a North Carolina Senate seat.
Republicans hold a slim 51-48 edge in the Senate with one Democratic-leaning independent, in a year that shapes up as a fierce fight for majority control. Thirty-four Senate seats are up this year, with eight open races.
In the contest for an open North Carolina Senate seat, Republican Rep. Richard Burr raised $8.7 million through June, compared to about $7 million for Democratic rival Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Clinton.
In Washington state, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray collected $9.8 million, roughly double the total of her challenger, Republican Rep. George Nethercutt, through June.
Others with fund raising in the millions include:
— California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who raised $14 million as of June 30.
— Missouri Republican Sen. Kit Bond, with $7.6 million collected.
— Republican Rep. Jim DeMint, who has raised more than $4 million for his bid for an open South Carolina Senate seat.
— Former Alaska Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat who raised $2.7 million through June for his challenge to Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski.
This year's candidates have a long way to go to surpass 2000's record-setting New York Senate race.
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani each had about $20 million in donations midway through the year. New Jersey banker Jon Corzine led that year's Senate hopefuls with $35 million raised through June, nearly all of it his own money. Democrats Clinton and Corzine won their races; in New York, Giuliani dropped out and Clinton defeated Republican Rick Lazio.