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A high enough mark

In rough terms, raising a million dollars for an Oregon Senate race pre-election year – if you’re a challenger – is pretty good. Close to that, at $913,000, is where Democrat Jeff Merkley stands; it ought to be a solid enough mark to unleash funds from the national Democratic treasury.

Figuring out how solid a number that is involved pulling in various factors.

The Merkley campaign points out that “Merkley’s fundraising efforts represent the best two-quarter totals that a challenger for Senate has ever posted in Oregon,” breaking the previous record by Democrat Bill Bradbury in 2002. Of course, Bradbury, who rised $2.1 million (and we should note entered the race much later than Merkley) still was heavily outspent by Republican incumbent Gordon Smith, who raised $7.7 million.

You could compare it to one of the other leading challenger Democrats in the region, Washington District 8’s Darcy Burner, who raised $858,125 in 2007, and for just one congressional district. But she entered the race for a re-run against Representative Dave Reichert almost as soon as the 2006 polls closed; her numbers are very good but not wildly out of line for what you’d expect. Comparing to Merkley, who started raising money only in August, you get a sensse that both are pulling in money at a solid pace.

More real comparisons: Upcoming numbers for Steve Novick, Merkley’s main Democratic opponent, and for Smith, who ask of the most recent available report (not an end of year) had raised about $6.3 million, and should add a mill or two to that with the new report. Any Democrat will need a big infusion of national money to compete with what Smith is likely to report over the next few days.

PULLING AWAY? Following up on the Merkley-Novick comparison: We hadn’t spotted the new Novick finance numbers, but David Steves of the Eugene Register Guard did, and noted them on his blog. Novick has raised $541,000 total ($219,000 in the last quarter, compared to Merkley’s $619,000 in that time). Has Novick’s fundraising pace slackened just a bit? Looks it.

The Novick argument (in Steves’ post) is that both campaigns are positioned to move past Bradbury’s 2002 fundraising. But, as suggested in the main post, that’s a false comparison: Campaigns have gotten more costly than they were in 2002; Bradbury’s campaign was heavily out-raised and spent then (and he lost, remember); and Smith is positioned to substantially out-raise himself from his last run. None of which means the Democrats are outclassed this time. But Merkley’s numbers are much closer (and seem on track) to what you need to leverage (and that is the word) a campaign fund that can compete solidly with Smith’s.

Was there a reason Novick chose today to release his first television spot? (An amusing spot, with some of Novick’s trademark wit in evidence, but too focused on what an unusual-but-committed candidate he is.)

AMENDED to include link to Merkley fundraising on that web site.

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