Independent expenditures piling up in some Senate races, not Kentucky

0
198

BIG SPENDING IN U.S. SENATE RACES
State-by-State Battle for Majority Control

WASHINGTON, DC (Campaign Finance Institute/WHTQ) – The Campaign Finance Institute’s  analysis of last week’s filings with the Federal Election Commission shows a lot of money being focused on 14 races that are likely to determine which party has a majority in the 2021 Senate.

- Advertisement -

While spending is piling up in Kentucky’s race between Democrat challenger Amy McGrath and veteran Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell in the race for his U.S. Senate seat, the spending has been funded by individual and PAC contributions to their campaigns and not spending by outside interest groups, at least not like it has been in some other states.

In some of those states, the importance of majority control has produced a few eye-popping numbers so far.

  • Before this election, only one Senate race had seen independent expenditures (IEs) or more than $100 million (Pennsylvania in 2016, with $116.6 million). So far in 2020, North Carolina has $146 million and Iowa $110 million, with 18 more days until Election Day.
  • Six states already show $50 million or more in IEs (AZ, GA regular, IA, ME. MT, NC), with a seventh (MI) quite close. The previous high was in 2018 when six states topped the $50 million mark by the end of the election cycle.
  • Jaime Harrison, the Democrat who is challenging Sen. Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, raised $57.9 million for his campaign committee during the third quarter alone. The previous record quarter for a Senate candidate was Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), who raised $38.1 million in 2018. Before that, the next highest was Rick Lazio’s (R-NY) third quarter in 2000 at $22 million. (Several of this year’s candidates also exceeded Lazio, see table 1.)
    • Harrison’s fundraising was attention-getting, but it is worth noting that he spent most of it during the same quarter. As of September 30, he had only 54% as much cash on hand as did Graham.

Table 1 below summarizes the money picture in each of the fourteen races rated as ”Toss-

Click on chart to enlarge.

up” or ”Leaning” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Democrats need to make a net gain of three seats to win the majority if they also win the presidency; four if President Trump wins reelection. The table shows each major party candidate’s receipts for the third quarter and cycle-to-date, together with cash on hand. It also shows general election independent spending favoring each candidate together with a combined total for both.

The table shows the Democratic (or Independent) candidate’s campaign committee having a September 30 cash advantage in Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, and Maine. Republican candidates had the edge in Montana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Michigan. However, the candidates’ cash position has to be considered alongside the independent spending for a full picture of the race – particularly since 63% of the overall IEs to date have been made by the formal party committee or by the Super PACs and dark money groups directly associated with the four party leaders. In three states (IA, MT, NC) independent spending favoring each of the candidates from both parties exceeded the candidates’ fundraising through the third quarter. This was also true for one of the two candidates in four other states (AK-D, GA-R, KS-R, ME-R).

What follows are some state-by-state observations commenting on the table’s line items. Cook’s rating is given in parentheses. Visit CFI’s IE tracker, updated daily, to follow spending in the final weeks before the election.

  • Alabama (Lean R): The incumbent Doug Jones (D) has raised nearly four times as much and has more than four times the cash than his opponent Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville has had more IEs to help him, with there being almost none so far for Jones. The state normally leans strongly Republican.
  • Alaska (Lean R): Independent candidate Al Gross has raised more money than the incumbent Dan Sullivan (R), has more cash on hand, and has benefited much more from IEs.
  • Arizona (Lean D): The challenger, Mark Kelly (D), retains his advantage over the incumbent Martha McSally in funds raised and cash. McSally benefits from a slight edge in IEs. 
  • Colorado (Lean D): Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has raised more and has slightly more cash on hand than the incumbent, Cory Gardner (R). More of the IEs have favored Gardner.
  • Georgia, regular election (Toss-up): Challenger Jon Osoff (D) has raised more than incumbent David Perdue (R) but the two are about even in cash on hand. IEs favor Perdue by $49 million to $19 million.
  • Georgia, special election (Toss-up): The incumbent Kelly Loeffler has raised more than her Democratic challenger, Raphael Warnock (D) but Warnock has slightly more cash on hand than Loeffler. The IEs favor Loeffler by a large margin. Recent polls suggest that Warnock may have moved into a slight lead in a three-way race that also involves Rep. Doug Collins (R). However, the polls also show him currently to be well below the 50% needed to avoid a runoff election, and whichever Republican makes it to the runoff could well benefit from their co-partisans who supported the one who placed third in November.
  • Iowa (Toss-up): Challenger Theresa Greenfield (D) has a significant advantage over incumbent Joni Ernst (R) in fundraising and cash with a slight edge in the very high level of IEs on both sides.
  • Kansas (Lean R): The Democratic candidate, Barbara Bollier, has raised more money and has more cash on hand than her opponent, Roger Marshall, in this open seat race, but Marshall benefits from more than twice as much spent on IEs.
  • Maine (Toss-up): State House Speaker Sara Gideon (D) has raised more than twice as much as the incumbent Susan Collins (R) and has more than three times the cash on hand. IEs are running about even.
  • Michigan (Lean D): The incumbent Gary Peters (D) and challenger John James (R) have each raised roughly equivalent amounts, with James having twice as much cash on hand. The IEs on both sides have been nearly identical. 
  • Montana (Toss-up): Gov. Steve Bullock (D) has raised more than the incumbent Steve Daines (R) but Daines has more cash on hand. The IEs, high on both sides, favor Bullock by a small amount.
  • North Carolina (Toss-up): The challenger, Cal Cunningham (D), has raised more than incumbent Thom Tillis (R) but Tillis has more cash on hand. The record-setting and evenly balanced level of IEs far outstrip the amount raised by the candidates through September 30.
  • South Carolina (Toss-up): As noted, challenger Jaime Harrison (D) raised a record amount of money during the third quarter but spent it and has less cash on hand than the incumbent, Lindsey Graham (R). The relatively balanced amount of spending on IEs so far has not been as high as in some other states.
  • Texas (Lean R): Incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (R) and challenger Mary Hegar have raised roughly the same amount for the full cycle so far, but Hegar raised nearly twice as much in the third quarter. The two candidates are about equal in their cash positions. Cornyn has benefited from nearly four times as much in IEs.

The Campaign Finance Institute is a division of the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute on Money in Politics, which collects and analyzes campaign contribution information on state and federal candidates, political party committees, and ballot committees. Its free, searchable database of contributions is online at FollowTheMoney.org