Parlaying Hog Castration Into Cold Hard Cash—Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican
Ernst shot to prominence in the Iowa Senate race thanks to her famous ad about castrating hogs, but worries still persisted about her low fundraising during the Republican primary. Ernst's second quarter report—nearly $1.8 million raised, just outpacing Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley's $1.7 million—demonstrates that she has found a previously missing campaign piece, just as the general election polls have tightened. Ernst still trails Braley in fundraising, but the disparity isn't as bad as some feared.
Fundraising Star—Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky Democrat
Last election, Elizabeth Warren was the undisputed Democratic fundraising star (besides President Obama, of course). This time around, Grimes has taken over that title with several strong fundraising reports, capped by a Kentucky record $4 million raised in the second quarter. Grimes's problem, though, is that even though she's now bested Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in three of four fundraising quarters, McConnell still has nearly $10 million in the bank after raising money at a pretty healthy clip himself. Bottom line: Neither is going to be starved for cash this fall.
Trouble With the Day Job—Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican
Weary of long legislative records, both parties run fewer state-level lawmakers for Congress than they used to, even though they do have pluses, especially campaign connections and experience. Tillis, the state House speaker, highlighted another drawback with his most recent fundraising report, which showed $1.6 million raised in the second quarter while Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan raised $3.6 million. Tillis is stuck in an extended state legislative session that's causing GOP infighting and keeping him from full-time campaigning. He'll be out soon enough and there's plenty of outside money in North Carolina to help him along, but it's another example of how state legislatures can interfere with congressional campaigns.
Keeping Up With the 1 Percent—Rep. Chris Gibson, New York Republican
Gibson's well-heeled House opponent, Democratic venture capitalist Sean Eldridge, has already given his campaign over $1 million and could give much more between now and November. The Republican incumbent's response: nearly $820,000 raised in the second quarter, the most Gibson has ever raised in a three-month span by some margin. Eldridge could still end up swamping the Republican, but Gibson is doing everything he can to keep up.
The Best Defense—Rep. Patrick Murphy, Florida Democrat
The freshman Murphy raised tons of money in 2012 when he was running against controversial Republican Allen West, but Murphy has managed to keep up the pace this election even without West stirring up Democratic donors. Murphy's strong fundraising—over $500,000 in every quarter, including nearly $760,000 in the second quarter of 2014—is one of the reasons a marquee Republican challenger never emerged in the Port St. Lucie area, though Murphy could still have a tough fight in this district that Mitt Romney won in 2012.