"When I would visit with people in the business community, it would be, 'Gee, I like you a lot, but you just can't win,'" she recalled. "And I'd say, 'We'll, you know, I'll talk to you after the primary.' And then after the primary, they'd say, 'Well, you proved me wrong.' Yes, I did."
Undeterred, Fischer raised $400,000 in the primary, was outspent 10-to-1 and prevailed over her two rivals with 41 percent of the vote.
Capito gets high marks from Republicans for jumping into the race in November 2012, before five-term Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller's long-expected retirement announcement, and relentlessly pursuing GOP donors.
"There were a lot of burned-out people," she remembered. "They'd given to PACs, given to the Senate committee, to [Republican presidential nominee Mitt] Romney, to others. They were really deflated the first half of the year. The final question they'd ask me, 'Are you going to win?' Because I think people want to back a winner."
In her latest campaign filing, Capito had $3.3 million cash on hand for her race against Democrat Natalie Tennant. The matchup ensures that West Virginia will make history, sending its first woman to the Senate next year.
Women outnumber men in the U.S. population, with 50.8 percent female and 49.1 percent male, but the ratio is ludicrously low in the U.S. Senate -- 20 out of 100.
A total of 44 women have served in the Senate since 1922, when 87-year-old Rebecca Latimer Felton of Georgia received a largely symbolic appointment that lasted a mere 24 hours. She filled the vacancy caused by the death of Thomas Watson. It wasn't until 1931 that Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas replaced her husband Thaddeus and then won election in her own right.
The current female class is a record high, but the numbers could drop. Three Democratic women -- Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire -- are up for re-election this year.
Senate women know they have to look out for each other.
Klobuchar recalls a first day, sitting beneath the portrait of Lyndon B. Johnson in the room named for him. She took a bowl of soup and salad from the buffet table, and sat down with other senators. In an instant, Murray was at her side, quietly telling her she had mistakenly taken a bowl of Thousand Island salad dressing instead of soup.
Looking out for each other could pay dividends later on. Gillibrand, who has been mentioned as a possible White House hopeful, said her fundraising effort raises money for women as well as their national profile, while establishing a long-lasting relationship between donor and candidate.
"I believe Kirsten Gillibrand wants to see more women in elected office," said Debbie Walsh, director of The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. "It's also a tremendous benefit for her."
The gains for the women extend to the practical. The Senate recently renovated the ladies bathroom, increasing the number of stalls and adding storage cubbies for makeup.