The fundraising numbers say that, true to his word, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint is not running for re-election in 2016. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, facing the possibility of a tough 2014 GOP primary contest, is building up his war chest.
DeMint, a Greenville Republican, has raised more than $400,000 so far this election cycle. By comparison, in the July 2006 quarter, DeMint raised nearly three times that amount, $1.2 million, as he prepared to run for re-election in 2010.
While DeMint has filed re-election paperwork and Tea Party members and other conservative groups continue to urge him to run again, “Sen. Tea Party” has told the media several times that, barring some extraordinary circumstance, he does not plan to seek another term, citing his belief in term limits.
“He has said he never intended to run for a third term, but he’s never made a final decision,” Wesley Denton, DeMint’s spokesman, said Tuesday.
That keeps the fundraising door open and the “lame-duck” label at bay as DeMint ramps up his efforts to turn his leadership political action committee, the Senate Conservatives Fund, into a super PAC. The change allows the super PAC to raise and spend limitless amounts of cash to elect senators, furthering DeMint’s goal of transforming the Senate into a conservative body of like-minded members.
Another sign that DeMint will not run again? He is giving away money to outside groups that are politically aligned with him.
In the first quarter, DeMint gave $500,000 to Club for Growth Action, a super PAC that supports conservative GOP candidates. Earlier this year, the group pounded Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana who lost a GOP primary, that it viewed as too moderate in TV ads.
In the latest quarter, DeMint gave more than $205,000 to an outside group. His campaign has not yet filed its paperwork listing the receiving group.
Should DeMint decide not to run for re-election, it is unclear whether he could contribute his campaign cash to his new super PAC, according to a Federal Election Commission spokesperson, who added the commission has yet to address such a situation.
Graham clearly will seek re-election in 2014.
The Seneca Republican is building up his war chest and has nearly $4.3 million in cash on hand, including nearly $2.4 million raised during this election cycle.
“He’s made no bones about the fact that he intends to run for re-election,” said Scott Farmer, Graham’s campaign spokesman.
Graham is building up his war chest so he has the cash on hand to fend off a 2014 challenge from those – in the Tea Party and other groups – that view him as too moderate.
During the three-month period that just ended, Graham raised about $382,000. For the election cycle, he’s raised nearly $2.4 million.
Among the state’s “freshman four” congressmen, U.S. Rep. Tim Scott, a North Charleston Republican, shined in fundraising.
Scott raised more than $147,000 in the most recent quarter and more than $1.3 million so far this election cycle. He has more than $630,000 in cash on hand.
“We’re just dedicated to it,” Scott said Tuesday. “I make a lot of phone calls. And I get a lot of no’s.”
Scott’s high national profile has led to speculation he may seek higher office, possibly running for the Senate in 2016, if DeMint does not seek re-election.
Scott isn’t saying. “My goal is to get re-elected.”
During the quarter, roughly half of Scott’s contributions were from S.C. donors. The other half came from political action committees, including those associated with Goldman Sachs, Boeing, an insurance industry, steel manufacturer Nucor and Federal Express.
The state’s other three freshmen GOP congressman, Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy and Mick Mulvaney, all raised between $60,000 and $90,000 during the quarter and nearly $600,000 this election cycle. They all have between $265,000 and $420,000 in cash on hand.
The latest financial reports show U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, a Lexington Republican, raised more than $58,000 during the quarter and has nearly $32,000 on hand.
U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of Columbia, the delegation’s lone Democrat, raised far more – nearly $277,000 – during the quarter and has $1.7 million in cash on hand.