Posted: March 31, 2010


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

There is a saying in politics, you can't beat somebody with nobody. It ought to come with a corollary, you can't beat somebody with no money.

Mike Castle is somebody. He is a nine-term Republican congressman and ex-governor, the sort of stature that could be expected for a candidate running for a Senate seat once held by the Democratic vice president.

The Democrats avoided having nobody against Castle when Chris Coons, the second-term executive for New Castle County, parachuted into the race after Beau Biden abruptly decided to run for another term as attorney general, not his father's old seat.

Now comes the part about the money.

Castle collected more than a million dollars in the last quarter of 2009 after announcing his candidacy. It was a serious down payment, based on the last two Senate races in Delaware.

Joe Biden spent nearly $5 million on his Senate race in 2008. Tom Carper, a fellow Democrat, spent $2.6 million in 2006.

The time has arrived for Coons to show what he has.

Today is the date for federal candidates to close out the first quarter of fund raising for 2010 so they can file their campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission by April 15.

Coons' report can be counted upon to have an effect on his effort to dent the perception that this race amounts to one of the Republicans' best opportunities in the country to take a Senate seat away from the Democratic majority.

If Coons shows he can pull in the contributions, it will lead to more. Otherwise, Democratic donors nationwide could be more interested in sending their checks to, say, Alexi Giannoulias, the Democrat who is in a close race for Barack Obama's old seat in Illinois.

In politics, money begats money.

Coons was making no predictions as of two weeks ago. "I'm optimistic," he said.

There was a clue, though. ActBlue, a Web site that raises money for Democrats, was showing Coons with more than $213,000 in online contributions as of Wednesday afternoon. This would not include any checks that came through the mail or through fund-raising receptions.

Coons probably needs to collect double what he is showing online to make an impression, even if he is running in a little state with 108,000 more Democratic than Republican voters. This is supposed to be a Republican year.

Meanwhile, Castle has not been idle. He had a fund-raiser last week at the Wilmington Club with Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican, as the draw. Pushing to the end, Castle was holding a fund-raiser Wednesday evening in Baltimore.

Although not expecting to match the million-dollar total from the last quarter, Castle still sounded satisfied. "I always thought this for us would be a slower quarter. It's a solid quarter," he said.

Coons is left with chipping away. This was recently made clear by FiveThirtyEight, a Web site devoted to the statistical analysis of politics. The site, which takes its name from the total number of presidential electoral votes, raised the odds for Coons to beat Castle.

FiveThirtyEight first gave Coons a seven percent chance. Now it is eight.