Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Reading the Tea Leaves

We are now approaching the moment when senators who don't plan to run for reelection in 2024 start telling the world. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Mike Braun (R-IN) went first, but there could be more. They generally announce this early to give other members of their party time to gear up. Somehow Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) didn't get the memo, though. Or maybe she got it and forgot about it 5 minutes later, before should take action.

Amy Walters of the Cook Political Report thinks there is another way to guess who might retire, other than the traditional method of sacrificing a goat and examining its entrails. She says the place to look is the financial reports filed with the FEC for Q4 2022. The theory is that a potential 2024 candidate who raised gobs of money in the fall of 2022 is probably in for another term but someone who didn't raise any money has probably had it. It's not foolproof, but it is an indication and will have to do until the candidate says something. Also, a big bank account now may help insulate a candidate from a bruising primary by scaring off potential primary challengers.

Let's start with swing-state Nevada. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) raised $1.4 million in Q4 2022, more than Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) raised in Q4 2020. Rosen also has $4.4 million in the bank, a million more than what Masto had at the start of 2021. It looks like she is running.

Arizona is weird. Well, the senior senator is weird. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) raised $803,000 in Q4 and has an immense $8.2 million in the bank now. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) had $1.4 million in the bank at this point in 2021. Kelly went on to raise and spend $100 million on his campaign. We very much doubt Sinema can raise that because Democrats don't like her and Republicans would prefer a real Republican. What she might find, though, is some very wealthy Republican with money to burn who will give her PAC $100 million to act as a spoiler.

In Wisconsin, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) raised $690,000 in Q4 and has $3 milliion in the bank, compared to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) who raised $131,000 in Q4 2020 and had $559,000 in the bank at this point last cycle. He ran and she probably will, too.

In Florida, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) is probably in, now that his presidential plans bit the dust. He raised $3.4 million in Q4 (vs. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, who raised $1.9 million last time). Scott has $3.4 million in the bank. Rubio had $1.9 million in the bank. But a big difference is that if money dries up, Scott can write himself a check for $50 million if he has to. He probably won't though, because the Democrats don't have a decent challenger unless Val Demings wants to try again.

And then there is California. Feinstein raised $559 in Q4 and has less than $10,000 in the bank. That's not quite enough for a state like California. It wouldn't even do for Wyoming. Sure looks like the end is nigh.

This method of forecasting doesn't always work. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) raised only $79,000 in Q4, but has already said he will run again. On the other hand, Rob Portman had $5 million in the bank in Jan. 2021 and retired, so following the money doesn't always work, but it is better than nothing. That said, we will continue to ask the staff vestal virgin to report to us on what the goat entrails are saying. (V)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates