There is only one word to describe the results from the latest round of fundraising disclosures – depressing. It’s not only the fact that Democrat Congressman Bruce Braley continues to rake in the cash for his bid for the U.S. Senate, it’s that the four Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate were outraised by the four Democrat candidates running for congress in Iowa’s first congressional district.
The total amount raised by the nine Democrat candidates running for federal offices in Iowa was $2,036,372. The total raised by the nine Republicans running for federal offices was $1,199,233, or 41 percent less than their Democrat counterparts.
When you look at just the open seats, the numbers don’t look any better for Republicans. Democrats running for the open seat in the first congressional district and the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Harkin raised $1,464,824 in the third quarter of 2013. Republicans raised just $615,128, or 58 percent less than their Democrat counterparts.
Even more depressing are the cash on hand numbers in the two open seats. Democrats have amassed $2,957,758, while the Republicans only have $761,628. That means Republicans have $2,196,130 less than the Democrats have in the bank, o and the Democrats have three-and-half times more money in the bank than all the U.S. Senate and 1st District Republican candidates raised in the third quarter.
These numbers are sobering. It’s not just that Republicans are trailing the Democrats in the fundraising race. It’s that it appears that one of the main advantages that Republicans have had in this state for decades, the ability to raise money for their campaigns, seems to have vanished.
The ramifications of this development could be devastating to the future of the Republican Party in this state. While it’s obvious that the poor fundraising numbers in the first congressional district and U.S. Senate race suggest it may be difficult for Republicans to win those contests, it could also have a negative impact on Republicans winning control of the state senate or maintaining control of the Iowa house of representatives.
Governor Terry Branstad and both of Iowa’s Republican congressmen may be able to overcome the Republicans’ financial disadvantage, but statewide candidates like Secretary of State Matt Schultz and State Auditor Mary Mosiman could be negatively impacted, especially if they are unable to build a campaign war chest of their own.
The problem for Republicans extends beyond just the two open seats created by Sen. Tom Harkin’s retirement. Congressman Steve King looks to have his hands full for the second campaign in a row. Jim Mowrer, the Democrat challenging King, raised an impressive $181,514 in the third quarter, or $71,643 more than Congressman King raised. Worse yet, Mowrer already has a cash-on-hand advantage over King, which is unheard of by an unknown candidate. Mowrer ended the quarter with $129,000 in the bank, while King has just $92,000. While Mowrer had an impressive quarter, King finds himself looking up at a Democrat opponent early in the campaign for the second race in a row largely because of his own choices.
Even though King’s fundraising could have been stronger, his campaign lacks discipline when it comes to spending. King spent $122,861 over the last three months, or almost $13,000 more than he raised. To put King’s expenditures in perspective, Congressman Tom Latham raised $417,015 in the quarter and only spent $56,520.
King’s disbursement disclosure is littered with payments to fundraising and marketing firms. In the last quarter, the King campaign paid eight different fundraising firms plus another local marketing firm that he has done business with for years. In total the campaign spent $59,497.77 with the nine different firms, and that doesn’t include payments to firms that handle credit card processing or the purchasing of data.
Integram, a firm that specialized in expedited mailings was paid $3,898.44.
Edonations, an on-line fundraising group was paid $14,868.35.
Southwest Publishers, was paid $10,910.16 for mail printing.
Direct Concepts, was paid $1,050 for printing and mail services.
Capitol Resources, an Iowa-based fundraising and event planning firm, was paid $2727.68 from the King campaign.
The Richard Norman Company, a fundraising and communications agency, was paid $7,158.90 from the campaign, in two equal payments.
Heartland Marketing Group, a western Iowa company with long-time connections with King was paid $8,000.
MDI Imaging and Mail, another mail firm was paid $5,677.62 in the quarter.
DeLullo & Associates, a D.C. based PAC fundraiser, was paid $9,446 in the quarter, even though the campaign only raised $19,500 for PACS.
In all, the King campaign paid its fundraising firms $59,497.77, but it only raised $109,871. That means for every dollar the King campaign raised, it cost them $0.54, which is way out of whack. Latham’s cost per dollar raised in the quarter was less than $0.14.
Also included in King’s expenses were airfare and hotel accommodations for his trip to South Carolina. King has traveled to New Hampshire and South Carolina this year for political events, which has led some in the national media to speculate that he’s eyeing a presidential bid in 2016, an idea that he has told reporters that he has not ruled out. King’s expenses for his South Carolina trip amount to a measly $892, but it looks bad to observers back home, especially when he trails a complete no-name Democrat opponent in fundraising.
Perhaps the most interesting item on King’s expenditure disclosure was a payment of $22,873 to The Polling Company, the polling firm for Kellyanne Conway, King’s longtime pollster. King admitted in the spring that he had conducted a statewide poll to see how he would fare in the U.S. Senate race. That poll appeared on his July quarterly report, which cost his campaign $20,000. Now the King campaign has conducted another poll in August, and the cost suggests that it was a statewide poll as well.
Perhaps King is still mulling-over making a run for the open U.S. Senate seat, but his anemic fundraising numbers this year suggest otherwise. What it does confirm, however, is that King is not currently focused on his 2014 re-election. That’s not only a problem for King, but also all Iowa Republicans.
Most Republicans probably couldn’t even name King’s Democrat opponent, but it would be a mistake to not take the challenge seriously. Yes, King disposed of a well-known and well-financed opponent in 2012, but Jim Mowrer may be more credible than people think. He’s a blank slate with a military background. I’m sure he’s a liberal, but I doubt he’s going to sound like one in the campaign. That combination could spell trouble for King.
It’s also possible that King will not receive the same kind of financial assistance he got in his last campaign against Christy Vilsack. Incumbent Congressmen are not supposed to need to be bailed out, especially in a Republican district like King’s. Christy Vilsack’s challenge of King was a special circumstance that led people to rally around King. It’s unlikely that King will receive the same level of support now that he’s running against a no-name challenger.
In all of the years that I’ve been around Republican politics in Iowa, I can’t remember a worse fundraising period than the current one. Iowa Republicans have a tremendous opportunity to win an open U.S. Senate seat as well as a seat in Congress, yet there is a complete lack of interest in the candidates seeking those offices.
I think part of the problem is the work ethic of our candidates. Fundraising is hard work, and far too few Republican candidates work hard at raising money. It also appears as if all the candidates running for the U.S. Senate have rather small personal networks, which inhibits their fundraising ability. There is this thought that people will donate to candidates just because they are running for office. It’s not true. Politics is all about personal relationships, and apparently our candidates have not done enough to build a statewide network.
A third reason why our Republican senate candidates are struggling is that they are not running for an office for which they are perceived as being qualified. Or put another way, donors don’t perceive the candidates as being legitimate U.S. Senate candidates. Every Republican running for the U.S. Senate has positive attributes and a lot to offer as a candidate, but the U.S. Senate might be a little bit of a stretch. Not only do donors want to have a personal connection with the candidate they support, but they also want to believe that that candidate could ultimately win. The current fundraising numbers suggest that far too few people believe in the current field of candidates.
Things may not look that good today, but there is still plenty of time to turn things around.
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