WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — John Cornyn continues to rake in big fundraising bucks — even with no major Republican primary challenger or a Democrat yet emerging to try and take the U.S. Senate seat he has held since 2002.
The Senate’s No. 2 Republican raised $1.8 million during the quarter that ended Sept. 30, campaign manager Manager Brendan Steinhauser told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The official fundraising totals have not yet been released, but Steinhauser said Cornyn’s re-election bid for next year had $6.9 million in cash on-hand.
Cornyn’s latest haul matches what the campaign raised in the first quarter of 2013 but is down from the $2.3 million raised during the second quarter, which ended June 30. Cornyn also had outraised all other U.S. senators up for re-election through June, but it’s unclear if he has continued to do so since many campaigns haven’t yet divulged their latest totals.
Still, Cornyn may not need a massive war chest. That’s because, despite being criticized by some tea party groups and other conservative activists as too moderate, Cornyn has yet to draw a credible challenger in the Republican senatorial primaries set for March.
It’s a far cry from last year’s nasty and expensive primary fight to replace retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, when then little-known former state solicitor general Ted Cruz used a wave of tea party support to upset Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst — the choice of Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Republican party mainstream. Cruz and Dewhurst combined to spend more than $30 million.
Meanwhile, no Texas Democrat has yet formally become a U.S. Senate candidate for the November 2014 general election.
Steinhauser said the campaign has successfully grown its donor base via “Keep It Red,” a grass-roots effort begun in August and meant to counteract Battleground Texas, which seeks to boost voter turnout among women and minorities in order to help Democratic candidates.
Visitors to the “Keep It Red” website see a variety of images spurring on the Texas conservatives, including decrepit urban street scene over the tag line: “Democrats bankrupted Detroit. Now they’re coming for Texas.” A Web video launched Sept. 30, three days before Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis announced she was running for governor, imagines a fictional future Texas run by Democrats where the Legislature passes a state income tax.
Steinhauser said Cornyn’s campaign on Monday began a substantial TV and radio campaign targeting primary and general election voters. He said several hundred thousand dollars was being spent on television alone but provided no further details.
Also, Cornyn’s campaign staff is attending around 20 grassroots events per week statewide. Cornyn has nonetheless been outshined by Cruz in some conservative circles. The freshman helped lead the budget battle over the nation’s new health care law that forced the federal government into a partial shutdown.
Cornyn has dubbed the health care overhaul a “monstrosity” and spent lavishly on Internet advertising attacking it. Steinhauser said an online ad titled “John Cornyn, Texas Conservative” has garnered more than 163,000 views, making it the campaign’s most successful spot of its kind to date.
But Cornyn also has noted that shutting down the government won’t end funding for the law — a sentiment that some tea party supporters have objected to, calling for continuing the congressional fight even if there appears little chance for conservatives to prevail.