Who needs a credible opponent? Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., came out swinging in his first quarter fundraising, bringing in $1.1 million to raise his total bankroll to $2.1 million.
"These are strong numbers that show a growing war chest as the cycle begins," spokesman Larry Smar wrote in an email. "His numbers are competitive with or higher than top targeted races around the country."
Smar is right about staying competitive with other races. As the keen-eyed Tom Fitzgerald of the Inquirer notes: "Casey outraised in the first three months of 2011 several prominent incumbents of both parties who are facing stiff challenges to their reelections, including Sens. Richard Lugar (R.,Ind.); Ben Nelson (D.,Neb.); Claire McCaskill (D.,Mo.), Olympia Snowe (R.,Maine). He has more cash on hand than McCaskill and Snowe, and close to the amounts amassed by Nelson and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D.,Ohio)."
But few states -- and certainly not those listed above -- require as much money for paid media as Pennsylvania, and Casey still trails the last blockbuster Keystone Senate race by a long shot. A look at Arlen Specter's report from the same point in his cycle (April 2009) shows a comparable $1.29 million haul for the quarter -- but Snarlin' Arlen had been making lucrative use of the previous four years of his term. He had a whopping $6.74 million on hand.
Now, Specter knew he was going to get a primary one way or the other (the report was filed just days before his party switch) and he, Joe Sestak and Pat Toomey spent nearly $40 million among them in the race -- a figure that doesn't include the copious outside money lavished by national parties and outside groups.
It's clear that Casey will have to raise a Scrooge McDuck level of money to win this race, but he's helped at this point by the fact that no big-time challenger has yet emerged and with so many other competitive races across the country, the outside money spigot might not be on high for this campaign.
UPDATE: Marc Scaringi, the Murrysville native, attorney and former Rick Santorum staffer who was the first declared challenger to Casey issued a statement calling Casey's bankroll "repulsive." More:"Senator Casey is sitting on a $2.1 million war chest for an election that is a year and a half away while our nation is still reeling from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. ...
"These fundraising numbers for Senator Casey answer one question, they let us know where he’s been. He’s been meeting with special interest groups, including union officials who expect and demand favors from him in exchange for campaign contributions, like the Casey Union Bailout plan calling for the taxpayers to bailout failed union pensions."
The last bit is a reference to a pension guarantee bill I wrote about a while back that has been mercilessly attacked in the conservative blogosphere. Scaringi's first quarter fundraising numbers aren't in yet, but he reported a mere $5,500 in his account at year's end and campaign manager John Haynes told me the other day they aren't really focused on fundraising, more on traveling the state.