WASHINGTON — Former Congressman Ed Case isn’t raising as much money in his campaign for U.S. Senate as Democratic opponent Rep. Mazie Hirono and Republican candidate Linda Lingle.

But what Case lacks in cash, he may be able to make up for with name recognition, one political analyst suggests.

Case is running against Hirono in the August 11 Democratic primary and the winner likely will face former Hawaii governor Lingle in the Nov. 6 general election.

“I’m not sure that anybody would call Ed Case anything but an underdog in this race,” said Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Washington,D.C.-based Cook Political Report.

Case raised nearly $111,840 in the three-month period that ended Dec. 31, according to Case’s latest campaign finance report which he provided to Civil Beat. (It still hasn’t been posted online at the Federal Election Commission website.)

Hirono took in more than five times as much — nearly $624,000 — during that time; Lingle easily outpaced both Democrats, raising almost $1.8 million from October through December.

“The good news for Case is that he is not an unknown entity,” said Duffy, who specializes in U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races. “A lot of money that some challengers end up raising is to make up this gap in name ID. Still, you would much prefer a level financial playing field, especially since Hirono is likely to have more of the establishment support (from those) who are likely to help her in a primary.”

Case reported having $283,197 in cash on-hand last quarter. Hirono and Lingle each reported having more than $1 million in cash at the start of the year.

For Case, the key will be to have enough money to reach voters with his message ahead of the Democratic primary. But how much is enough?

“There’s not a magic number, but there’s sort of a number he needs to be competitive,” Duffy said.

Duffy said she looked to 2006 — when Case challenged Sen. Daniel Akaka for the same Senate seat that Akaka is vacating this year. Leading up to the Democratic primary in that race, Case spent more than $800,000, according to FEC records.

This time, Duffy said, she believes Case will need about $500,000 — and that’s at least in part because he is better known now than he was six years ago.

For better or worse, though, Case has also been out of the political spotlight since his last Senate run. Case left his seat in the U.S. House to challenge Akaka.

The former congressman has touted his grassroots campaign. His ability to regularly meet face-to-face with Hawaii voters may give him an edge over Hirono, who is also juggling her congressional duties in Washington.

Either way, a Civil Beat analysis of Case’s most recent report to the Federal Election Commission shows that his boots-on-the-ground approach may be working. Nearly three-quarters of donors who gave Case more than $200 apiece last quarter were Hawaii residents. About 105 Hawaii residents gave him more than $68,000.

The rest of his itemized donations — about $24,000 — came from donors in 11 states, as well as from the District of Columbia and Guam. Case also got more than $13,600 in small donations, which represented about 13 percent of his fourth-quarter take. The FEC does not require candidates to itemize donations under $200.

As a result, it’s impossible to tell how many small donors contributed to Case’s campaign. Hirono saw significant support from donors who gave her $200 or less last quarter. A Civil Beat analysis based on a number provided by the Hirono campaign found that about 3,475 small donors gave her an average of $35 apiece during that time.

While Hirono solidly outpaced Case last quarter, Duffy said that her fundraising numbers may be misleading.

“My question about Hirono’s money is how much is available for the primary?” Duffy said. “If people are maxing out for both primary and the general, the real number (available to her to fight Case) may be much less formidable.”

One person who needs all of the cash she can get, according to Duffy, is Lingle.

“Lingle is going to need that advantage, running in Hawaii in a presidential year,” Duffy said. “The good news for her is she’s not going to have to spend a lot of money in the primary where both Hirono and Case will.”

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