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Kentucky's Bunning had a dismal re-election fundraising quarter

WASHINGTON — Over the past three months, Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning raised $302,467 for his re-election campaign, about half the amount that political protégé and potential Republican challenger Trey Grayson raised in the same time period.

Of the four top contenders for Bunning’s seat, the incumbent raised the least during the second quarter of the year. Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway says he pulled in $1.32 million, compared to $602,699 for Grayson and $302,993 for Democratic Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo.

Over the past three months, Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning raised $284,649 for his re-election campaign, less than half the amount that political protege and potential Republican challenger Trey Grayson raised in the same time period.

Of the four top contenders for Bunning's seat, the incumbent raised the least during the second quarter of the year. Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway says he pulled in $1.32 million, compared to $602,699 for Grayson and $302,993 for Democratic Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo.

The Hall of Fame pitcher's weak numbers fuel continued speculation within the GOP about the junior senator's political viability in his bid for a third term.

"Bunning could have made this all better by going out there and having a good fundraising quarter, and yet he didn't," said Jennifer Duffy a senior editor with the Cook Political Report. "At this point strategists and leadership are out of patience. If he's not going to do anything to help himself then why should they?"

Bunning declined to comment Thursday on his campaign finance numbers.

Last week, Bunning blamed his fund-raising woes on his Senate duties, telling reporters that "this job keeps me a little busy."

Other incumbents, including Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., who recently switched from the Republican Party, raised more than $1 million in the second quarter.

However, Bunning, who as a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies famously ignored catchers' signs when they came from the manager, has vowed to stay in the race.

For months, Bunning has bemoaned the state of his war chest and blamed a fellow Kentuckian, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman John Cornyn of Texas for casting doubt about whether Bunning would stay in the race.

McConnell has publicly questioned "who the players are going to be in Kentucky" and, according to Bunning, told the 77-year-old senator he was "too old to run for re-election."

Earlier this year, Bunning told reporters, "I'm not going to walk into 2010 with less than $1 million when I know it will take $7 million to run against the winner of Democratic primary."

So far, Bunning has raised a total of $1,071,499 for his re-election campaign. He has $595,571 in cash on hand, compared to $572,103 for Grayson, who is Kentucky's secretary of state.

Grayson has said he has no plans at this time to run if Bunning is in the race.

With only two quarters left before the January 2010 filing deadline, Grayson may find himself in the awkward position of usurping his mentor, Duffy said.

"At some point the party will go to him and say your country needs you," she said. "Before they put (Grayson) in that position, they have to make sure everybody else is out."

Grayson's decision to explore a possible run for the seat Bunning currently holds came after a multi-week series of conversations between the state's junior senator and his protege. With Bunning's apparent blessing in hand, Grayson, 37, said he moved forward and told several key Republicans, including potential donors and McConnell, that he would explore a run.

However, even after Grayson publicly announced his exploratory committee, Bunning stressed that he was running for re-election. The move confused state politicos, who thought Grayson's exploratory committee signaled that the senator was ready to end his 2010 bid.

"Republicans are in terrible shape for 2010," said Larry Sabato, a political expert with the University of Virginia. "The last thing they need is to lose a seat that would probably fall into their column were Bunning not the nominee."

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