With another fundraising deadline looming, candidates running for federal office are making a frantic last minute dash to collect funds for their campaigns before the fundraising period closes next Monday at midnight. That means Iowans are being bombarded with fundraising solicitations. Last week alone, fundraising letters from Congressman Steve King, Congressman Tom Latham, Sam Clovis and David Young made their ways to mailboxes across the state.
As one would imagine, the most attention will be given to the candidates running for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2014. Congressman Bruce Braley is the presumptive Democratic nominee since he is running unopposed. While Braley’s campaign hasn’t been much to write home about, he has used his connections as a trial lawyer to bankroll his campaign with contributions from around the country. Braley has been able to raise about a million dollars per quarter, and there is no indication that his national fundraising effort is about to slow down.
On the Republican side, four candidates are each trying to distinguish themselves in the already crowded primary. Even though there is more to being a candidate than one’s fundraising prowess, the ability to raise significant money could be a distinguishing factor in the Republican primary. Statewide campaigns require a lot of financial resources.
If a candidate has more money than his or her opponents, it’s going to allow them to reach more potential voters. Besides that fundamental principle, one’s ability to raise money could also factor into to the electorate’s decision because, at the end of the day, most Republicans will want to back a candidate they believe can win in November.
Even though the primary is still more than eight months away, these quarterly fundraising filings are important moments for most campaigns. With a field of candidates that lacks statewide name ID (which basically makes early polls irrelevant), the only tangible attribute one can currently measure is their ability to raise money. Below is a synopsis of each candidates fundraising activity.
Joni Ernst: All eyes are on Ernst as the her campaign’s October fundraising filing with the Federal Election Commission will be her first. Expectations are also high for Ernst, as both Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds have privately encouraged some influential Iowa donors to aggressively back her candidacy.
I have yet to see or hear about Ernst sending a fundraising mailing to donors, but that my not be necessary out of the gate. Ernst needs a strong quarter to separate herself from the rest of the field. To do that, she will need to surpass what the other candidates raised in their initial fundraising quarter. A total raised of $300,000 would do that, but it still wouldn’t put her in the same league as Braley.
David Young: Young led all Republicans running for the U.S. Senate in fundraising in the last quarter by raising $155,785.00. Most of the money Young raised in the last quarter, 67 percent to be exact, was from out-of-state donors. Young began the new quarter with a statewide fundraising solicitation. He has also recently mailed a similar letter as the period comes to a close.
Taking some of the money he raised in his first quarter and investing in mail is a smart move. It also doesn’t hurt Young that he opens his letter with, “For the past several years, I have proudly served Iowans as Sen. Grassley’s Chief of Staff.” Donors may not know who Young is, but everyone knows Grassley and the strong association should help him raise money in the mail. Young needs to meet or exceed his initial fundraising quarter. Anything less that $150,000 would be a disappointment.
Matt Whitaker: Whitaker was the first candidate to formally join the U.S. Senate race, but he came in second place in the fundraising department last time around. The former U.S. Attorney raised $115,091.00 from May 11th to June 30th, most of who are from Iowa. Whitaker has yet to send out a fundraising mailer, but he has solicited donations via Facebook.
Whitaker messaged his Facebook friends the following request. “As you probably know, I am running for the US Senate here in Iowa. I am personally writing to you to ask if you would invest $100 in my campaign. I know this is a lot to ask. Your help will allow me to continue to visit people all over the state of Iowa and get my message out. Can I count on you? Visit my website @ mattwhitaker.org to invest today.” The Whitaker campaign deserves credit for using social media to aid in their fundraising effort. It will be interesting to see how well it has worked. Like Young, Whitaker needs to meet or exceed his initial fundraising quarter. He really needs to keep pace with Ernst and Young.
Sam Clovis: Clovis raised far less than any of his opponents in the last fundraising period, bringing in just $13,607. While his initial fundraising haul was disappointing, it has not stopped him from soliciting donors through the mail. The Clovis campaign has sent two fundraising letters in the mail this period, a sign that fundraising has picked up, the candidate is paying the tab for the mailings, or that the campaign is in debt. We will know once the reports are filed.
Unlike his Republican opponents, Clovis doesn’t have to deal with the same fundraising expectations. Clovis is an untraditional candidate and already has an established following in northwest Iowa. While he needs to be able to raise money to run a competent campaign, he’s never going to be held to the same standards as a Whitaker, Ernst, or Young. That might seem unfair, but the Clovis campaign will always be more dependent on grassroots support than money. If the race continues on its current path, Clovis can compete. If it becomes an air war, Clovis is going to be in trouble.
Clovis needs to need to simply raise more money than he did in his initial quarter. Frankly, he needs to raise significantly more, which shouldn’t be that difficult to do.
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