Senate

Five GOP U.S. Senate Fundraising Takeaways

The key storyline coming out of yesterday’s FEC filing deadline is that Democratic candidates are significantly outraising their Republican counterparts in key U.S. Senate races across the country.

Here are five other takeaways — from Wisconsin to North Carolina:

1. EVERYBODY HATES RON: In Wisconsin, Republicans’ most vulnerable Senate incumbent Ron Johnson — who is increasingly unpopular and spent last week making headlines for his opposition to lowering child care costs — disclosed the deeply-underwhelming fundraising numbers of a U.S. House candidate. Johnson was always going to count on big donor-funded independent expenditures to boost his reelection chances. But this report is a reminder that Johnson’s biggest billionaire backers like Dick Uihlein and Diane Hendricks are limited in what they can contribute to Johnson’s campaign directly. 

2. LAZY LAXALT? In Nevada, despite being anointed by DC insiders, Adam Laxalt is still struggling to meaningfully separate himself in that state’s GOP primary, where he’s faced vocal doubts from some Silver State Republicans. Exemplifying that point: Laxalt raised less in Q4 2021 than he did in Q3, despite his best efforts to fundraise off Trump’s Big Lie, which has earned him condemnation in Nevada. Is Laxalt lazy? More likely: Nevada activists and donors alike simply don’t trust him, and for good reason. By contrast, incumbent U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto raised $3.3 million in Q4 — “double her GOP foes.”

3. KEYSTONE CARPETBAGGERS FLOOD THE AIRWAVES: Pennsylvania’s out-of-state candidates are fully committed to burning millions of dollars trying to buy the GOP Senate primary. Mehmet Oz has already spent millions of his (in-part, Big Pharma-funded) personal wealth and funneled it into TV ads. David McCormick (who can’t seem to decide if he’s proud of his outsourcing record or not) wasn’t due to submit a quarterly filing, but a misleadingly-named super PAC supporting his candidacy — “Honor Pennsylvania” — disclosed a $5 million contribution from McCormick’s fellow out-of-state hedge fund executive, the billionaire megadonor Ken Griffin, who resides in Chicago and New York. It’s clear that Oz, McCormick, along with their independent expenditure proxies, plan to keep up the TV ad onslaught in the months ahead, leaving all parties involved bloodied. Meanwhile: Carla Sands continued to self-fund her campaign, while Jeff Bartos gave himself a loan and Kathy Barnette likewise put up enough of a sum to stick around in this very messy primary for the foreseeable future.

4. CAROLINA CANDIDATES “STRUGGLING TO RAISE MONEY”: In North Carolina’s GOP primary, everyone’s having a bad time and — to put it bluntly — “struggling to raise money.” No one’s having a worse time than Pat McCrory, who distinguished himself beyond the rest — but only for raising less and less each of the past two quarters. Still, meager candidate fundraising numbers won’t prevent this GOP primary from getting nastier in the months ahead: Club for Growth, which is supporting Ted Budd in the race, “said the group plans to spend at least $5.9 million more to promote Budd and criticize McCrory.” McCrory has a super PAC of his own; but that group raised just $161,000 in the second half of 2021.

5. “PERSONAL WEALTH PRIMARY” OHIO REPUBLICANS LIE TO REPORTERS AND VOTERS: In Ohio, Republicans have put on “a masterclass in campaigns misrepresenting fundraising totals,” as National Journal put it. Call it the “personal wealth primary,” because there are a lot of candidates — including more than a few self-funding multimillionaires — with no meaningful political momentum. And just about everyone is playing dishonest word games to embellish their nonexistent grassroots enthusiasm. Consider self-funder Matt Dolan touting $10.8 million cash on hand as evidence of “rapidly growing support,” when that figure is inflated by a $10-plus million personal contribution. And then there’s Jane Timkenwho’s similarly exaggerating her grassroots support — just with ~35% of Dolan’s money. So far, Ohio has been the costliest GOP Senate primary to date. Pennsylvania’s GOP primary is hot on its heels, but there’s no question that Timken and Dolan, along with fellow self-funders Bernie Moreno and Mike Gibbons, not to mention Peter Thiel-boosted JD Vance, are itching to waste even more of their money in the months ahead. The upshot: Months into this primary, everyone else still seems to be chasing Josh Mandel, on issues ranging from opposing infrastructure investments to lying about the 2020 election.

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