From The Hill -
Rep. Harris lent $250,000 to sagging Senate bid in Fla.
By Peter Savodnik
Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) lent $250,000 of her own money late last year to her sagging Senate campaign, a Republican familiar with campaign operations said.
The congresswoman is expected to announce next week that she raised roughly $1 million in the final quarter of 2005, said former Florida GOP Executive Director Geoffrey Becker. That total will include Harris’s personal contribution.
Many other Florida Republicans confirmed the $1 million fundraising figure but declined to speak publicly about the Harris campaign.
How much cash Harris has in her campaign coffers will have a direct impact on her ability to wage a competitive race, according to Becker.
Campaign spokeswoman Morgan Dobbs would say only that the campaign is extremely pleased with its support and that it exceeded its fundraising goal for the quarter. Campaign consultant Ed Rollins said the campaign’s financial outlook has improved.
“If her cash on hand is below a million dollars, if it’s anywhere in that neighborhood, that’s just not good news,” said Becker, who now runs a GOP consulting firm, Vantage Point Strategies, in Tallahassee. “Florida is simply too expensive, and she’s got too much work to do. She’s got a lot of image building and image rebuilding to do to get to a general-election competitiveness.”
Harris is the only Republican seeking her party’s nomination to challenge Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in November.
While the congresswoman, now in her second term, outpolls all other possible Republican contenders in a potential primary contest, she also performs the worst among the same Republicans in a match-up against Nelson, according to polls.
For that reason, Republican strategists say, other Republicans, such as Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and state House Speaker Allan Bense, have been reluctant to jump into the primary, leaving the GOP, they say, without a viable contender to take on Nelson.
Tony Marsh, a GOP consultant at the Washington-based Marsh Copsey & Associates who has worked for Foley and the Florida Republican Party, said beating Harris in a primary “will be a battle up a very steep hill.”
J. Patrick Michaels, a prominent GOP fundraiser backing Harris, said that he was unaware of the $250,000 loan but that it makes sense.
“She’s got the money, and her family’s got the money, and her husband certainly has the money,” Michaels said.
Since entering the Senate race last summer, Harris has faced several hurdles: opposition from the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee; lackluster third-quarter fundraising that campaign aides attributed to Hurricane Katrina; and staff shakeups, including Campaign Manager Jim Dornan’s resignation.
What’s more, were Harris to win the nomination, she would have to compete with many other Senate battlegrounds for support from donors and the national party, including Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, where Republican incumbents face tough reelections, and potentially competitive races in Michigan, Nebraska, Washington, West Virginia and elsewhere.
Moreover, Harris would not have President Bush at the top of the ballot to help in a general election, as freshmen Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) did. Martinez eked out a win against Democrat Betty Castor in 2004 with critical, grassroots support care of the Bush-Cheney campaign.
A Florida Republican official who worked on the 72-hour voter-mobilization drive in November 2004 said the president’s campaign drove up turnout in 64 out of 67 counties in the state.
“If she has any pride, she’ll be out in a month,” said a Republican with close ties to Harris campaign officials. “If she cares about her party, she’ll be out in a month. Otherwise, the Senatorial Committee won’t do a thing and she’ll get beat by 15 points.”
Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the committee isn’t actively recruiting any candidates at this time.
Republicans have called Nelson, a former state insurance commissioner now wrapping up his first term, a blank page who has yet to define himself in Washington. And they insist that the president’s improved performance in Florida in 2004 — the president received 52 percent of the vote last time around versus 49 percent in 2000 — shows the state is trending Republican, particularly along the crucial I-4 corridor linking St. Petersburg and Daytona.
But Republicans concede that Nelson will have a huge war chest by the time the GOP primary rolls around, Sept. 5. Republicans expect him to have as much as $20 million in the bank.
At the end of the third quarter, Sept. 30, Nelson had $6.5 million on hand, having raised $1.9 million during that time. In contrast, Harris had $470,000, having raised just less than $500,000.
Nelson pollster David Beattie has called the senator a results-oriented Democrat with experience campaigning in turf normally hostile to members of his party.
Far from squandering his time in Washington, as Republicans maintain, Nelson has opposed oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and fought to extend the enrollment deadline for the prescription-drug benefit, among other issues, spokesman Bryan Gulley said.http://www.thehill.com/thehill/export/TheHill/News/Campaign/011106.html