US Senate

October 15th, 2013

Fundraising Totals Begin to Tell a Story – And It Isn’t Good

Candidates for the U.S. Senate have begun to disclose what they have raised for their campaigns in the financial quarter that ended on September 30th at midnight.  It may be a while before the public will be able to scan the reports to see how and from whom they raised their funds, however the initial figures do give us some insight into  the health of their campaigns.

State Senator Joni Ernst – $252,000

Before announcing that her campaign had raised just over $250,000 in its initial fundraising period, Ernst released what could be the largest political endorsements of the Republican primary.  With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, Governor Terry Branstad, and both Republican U.S. Congressmen unlikely to publically back a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds’ endorsement of Ernst is significant, especially considering that Ernst’s name I.D. across the state is probably not all that high.  Whether purposeful or not, the Reynolds endorsement gives Ernst’s candidacy a seal of approval from the Branstad administration.

With the endorsement of Reynolds also come expectations.  Ernst’s initial haul of $250,000 is far better than what Sam Clovis, Matt Whitaker, and David Young raised, but it does not put her in a league of her own like some have suggested.  Ernst’s fundraising haul still puts her behind David Young in terms of fundraising for the entire primary thus far. If the Ernst campaign wanted to set themselves apart from the competition, it need to surpass the $300,000 mark, and quite honestly approach the $500,000 mark.

Ernst’s initial fundraising haul gives her a passing grade, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

Sam Clovis Raises $75,000

Sam Clovis’ campaign raised significantly more money in the second reporting period than it did in its first fundraising quarter.  While the total the campaign raised is a still a measly $75,000, growth in the fundraising department is exactly what the campaign needed to show.  Some on this site have commented about Clovis’ “high burn rate,” meaning the amount he is spending is most of what he raised.  That is easy to understand when you realize that the campaign used direct mail solicitation for the bulk its fundraising activity.

The Clovis campaign also announced that Chuck Laudner has signed on to be its campaign manager.  Laudner is a perfect fit for Clovis.  Throughout his career in politics, Laudner and most of the campaigns he’s been associated have been able to do more with less.  In this case, the “less” means financial resources.  Laudner’s style of grassroots organizing is exactly the type of campaign that Clovis can afford and can be successful in implementing.

One word of caution for the Clovis campaign…  While Laudner has been credited for a lot of the success that Rick Santorum had in the 2012 Iowa caucuses, this is a primary, not a caucus.  Twice as many Republicans will likely participate in the 2014 U.S. Senate Primary as voted in the Iowa Caucuses.  That means a campaign will have to reach out to a wider swath of voters to be successful in the primary.

Besides continuing to show growth in the fundraising department, the Clovis campaign must also show that it is more than a regional campaign.  The campaign has released the names of hundreds of supporter and county leaders, the majority of whom have been from northwest Iowa.   Again, one can’t take away from the campaign’s early organizational accomplishments, but Clovis must show signs of support in other parts of the state if he wants to be viewed as a legitimate factor the race

David Young Raises $112,334

David Young turned a few heads when he out raised all of his Republican opponents in a condensed reporting period that ended in May.  In that period, Young raised over $155,000.  Over the next ninety days Young’s fundraising pace slowed, but he still managed to raise $112,334, which still puts him as the fundraising leader for the Republican primary.

Most of the money that Young was able to raise in his first quarter came from his D.C. connections.  It will be interesting to see if that trend holds true, or if Iowans are buying into his campaign.  Another thing to watch concerning Young is his cash on had.  Young hired a number of staffers and sent a large mailing at the opening of the fundraising quarter.  All of those things cost money.  Young’s fundraising seems to be all right, but his cash-on-hand number might give us a better idea of the health and viability of his campaign.

Waiting on Whitaker

Matt Whitaker has yet to disclose how much he raised in the second fundraising period.  His silence suggests that his numbers are not as good as his initial filings. Both Whitaker and Young hyped their initial numbers by say saying that they were able to raise the amount in a very condensed amount of time.  It’s problematic when you raise less over the span of 90 days than you raised in just 30 or 15 days.  Young has already confirmed that his fundraising pace has slowed.  Now we need to know if that also holds true with Whitaker.

The Second Reporting Period is Always the Hardest

Raising the necessary money to fund a legitimate U.S. Senate primary campaign is one of the must difficult tasks for a candidate.  Their initial report is typically full of donors who are eager to support the candidate – low hanging fruit so to speak.  Their second fundraising quarter is often more difficult.

Looking up at Bruce Braley

Braley’s attributes as a statewide candidate are poor, but his fundraising prowess is as good as it gets.  Braley hauled in $900,000 again for the quarter, marking the third straight quarter where he raised almost a million dollars.  To date, Braley has raised $3 million and has $2.3 million on hand. To put that in perspective, the Republican candidates have yet to even raise $1 million in aggregate.

Money isn’t everything in a race like this, but a highly contested Republican primary combined with Braley not having to deal with a primary puts Republicans at a distinct disadvantage in the general election if this trend continues.

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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