Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) at at presser with Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) (photo: Wikipedia)

Blanche Lincoln’s fundraising, relative to primary challenger Bill Halter, is even worse than the numbers would indicate.

Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s campaign says she’s raised more than $1 million over the past three months for her re-election bid.

Lincoln’s campaign said Thursday that the incumbent senator has more than $4 million in the bank as she seeks a third term in office. Wednesday marked the deadline for first quarter contributions.

Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is Lincoln’s chief rival in the May 18 Democratic primary. Halter’s campaign said Wednesday night that he had raised more than $2 million since launching his bid March 1.

So Halter raised twice as much in a month as Lincoln did in three months. Of course, she had a cushion, and no primary challenger materialized until March 1. So she still has a healthy cash advantage for the last six weeks of the primary, although the independent expenditures from labor level the playing field.

Lincoln will return to center stage in Washington for that final six weeks. The Agriculture Committee has some control over the derivatives piece of financial regulation (there’s actually a reason for this; agriculture derivatives and swaps, in the form of commodity trading, is the oldest derivative market out there). So this crucial bit of the financial reform bill we’ll see heads over to the desk of… Blanche Lincoln, the chair of the committee. Guess what interests she’ll favor in creating those rules:

Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and ranking Republican Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) plan to shepherd a bipartisan bill through their committee soon after Congress returns from its two-week April recess. Lincoln said in a recent speech that she expects the legislation to be incorporated into a wide-ranging package, spearheaded by the Senate banking committee’s chairman, Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), aimed at revamping the nation’s financial regulatory system [...]

If Lincoln and Chambliss strike a workable bipartisan deal on derivatives — a goal that has eluded other lawmakers — it could help push Dodd’s legislation across the finish line. At the same time, some industry officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they continue to lobby lawmakers on the issue, said they expect that legislation headed up by Lincoln could be more favorable to the financial industry than the language currently in Dodd’s bill.

Quoted in the article, Lincoln said, “The swaps market will be regulated, but let me say this. I don’t believe in overreaching or regulation for regulation’s sake. We must be surgical with how we regulate.” “Surgical” in this case should read “taking a scalpel to everything but the profits of the banks.”

Lincoln’s probably on safer ground undermining the financial bill than the health care bill, simply because derivatives are so obscure to the public, and therefore easily spinnable. But if she takes a high-profile position basically on the side of the banks right at the height of her primary campaign, that provides a major opening for her opponent.