A small technical point that I’ve been meaning to make but inspired today by the staggering new fund-raising totals that Michele Bachmann reported today. (Hat tip to Derek Wallbank’s post of early this a.m.)
A candidate who raises funds in one campaign for federal office and doesn’t spend them all can legally transfer those funds for use in a campaign for a different federal office, even in another cycle.
Bachmann, whom polls and pundits suggest is not in serious danger of losing her House seat this year, is still hauling in campaign cash at a stupefying pace. If, at any point, Bachmann decided that she could afford to slow down on the spending side and coast to reelection (and even if she didn’t decide that), she could probably end the 2010 cycle with millions in her campaign coffers.
Legally, she could:
- distribute the money to one of the Republican Party committees for distribution to other candidates, or give it directly in small amounts to other Republican candidates for federal office (she already has a federal PAC that she uses to support conservative Repubs, but she can’t put leftover campaign funds in there) (p.s. this first option is not going to happen);
- use it as a start to her campaign chest for a 2012 reelection campaign to the House;
- use it to run for president in 2012 (there’s been talk, although personally I don’t take it seriously, and even if she did, her 2010 campaign finance leftovers would be a small number in the context of a national race);
- use it to run against Amy Klobuchar for the U.S. Senate in 2012.
Klobuchar’s seat is up in 2012. From this huge distance in time, she looks good for reelection, considering her high approval ratings. There’s no obvious Republican challenger, but there will be.
If the DFL ends up controlling both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office next year, they will be in almost total control of the redrawing of the map of Minnesota’s congressional and — although there will be competing agendas — it’s reasonable to assume that one of the party’s top priorities where the U.S. House map is concerned will be to put Bachmann in a district that will be much tougher for her than the current 6th District. It won’t be hard to do, considering that Bachmann lives in Washington County (Stillwater), one of the counties in her current district that she lost in her races so far.
Bachmann is the single best-known Minnesota Republican at present. Past conventional wisdom has been that she is too conservative to make a good statewide candidate in blue-leaning Minnesota, but the blueness of Minnesota is oft-overstated and very far right Senate candidates appear to be doing well in similar states this year. (See my post of this morning about Wisconsin.)
Anyway, long story short, if Bachmann decides to take on Klobuchar in 2012, she will probably start out with considerable cash already on hand, and a proven ability — far beyond that of most House members — to tap a big national donor base for more.
By the way, another person who might benefit from the same federal-race-to-federal-race technicality would be Tim Pawlenty. In the context of presidential candidates, he has not established himself as a great fund-raiser. We’ll see after he officially enters the race. And he will presumably spend whatever he raises to actually run for president. But if he were to bomb out early in Iowa and New Hampshire and had a few million in his campaign treasury, he could conceivably switch to the 2012 Minnesota Senate race and take the money with him. Remember, he wanted to run for Senate in 2002 until he got that famous call from Dick Cheney.