Every election cycle tells a story, but the storyline for the 2014 general election is still being written. Republicans have longed believed that 2014 would be a Republican year in Iowa, especially with the absence of a presidential candidate at the top of the ticket.
Strong fundraising from Democrats seeking federal office, especially Congressman Bruce Braley who wasn’t challenged for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat that Sen. Tom Harkin is vacating, made it look like Iowa was leaning Democrat in the 2014 U.S. Senate race. A month into the general election, Braley’s campaign seems adrift, and Republican Joni Ernst has emerged as a formidable general election candidate.
With Election Day just over three months away, there are plenty of indications that 2014 could be a strong year for Iowa Republicans. Whether it be as good as 2010 is anyone’s guess, but it’s safe to say that Iowa Republicans feel that the wind is at their backs.
The fundraising reports that came out earlier this week also show the Republicans are in a much stronger position financially that they were in 2010.
Four years ago, Terry Branstad was mounting his comeback campaign against Democrat incumbent Governor Chet Culver. Branstad may have been the favorite in the race, but its not as if Culver and the Democrats were just going to lay down. For the filing period that ended in late July of 2010, Culver reported raising over $795,000 and had $2.85 million cash-on-hand. Branstad in 2010 raised a robust $1.57 million following his primary campaign, and had $2.1 million cash on hand.
Four years later, Branstad has over $4 million in the bank, and his Democrat opponent, State Senator Jack Hatch, only has $183,142 cash on hand. To put Hatch’s paltry bank balance into perspective, he doesn’t even have enough money to match the $211,000 he spent on TV ads in June. Hatch’s anemic fundraising also likely means that the Democrat Governor’s Association will choose not to invest in the state. That’s bad news for the entire Democratic ticket, not just Hatch.
Two other Republican statewide office holders don’t face significant general election opponents in 2014. Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has over $277,000 cash-on-hand, and his Democrat challenger, Sherrie Taha, has only $670.28 in her campaign account. Nobody expected much of a challenge against Northey, but Taha makes Northey’s 2010 opponent, Francis Thicke, look like a juggernaut of a candidate. Thicke had $21,586 in the bank at this time in 2010.
State Auditor Mary Mosiman has been in office for over a year now, but she has never stood for statewide election since Branstad appointed her to the position after Dave Vaudt resigned in the spring of 2013. Mosiman raised $23,235 in the fundraising period and has over $54,000 cash-on-hand. While Mosiman’s fundraising numbers are not large enough to scare anyone away, especially since this is the first time running for statewide office, Mosiman is fortunate that her Democrat challenger, Jonathan Neiderbach, isn’t mounting much of a campaign. Neiderbach raised just $720 and has only $1,814 in the bank.
While Democrats are essentially giving Branstad, Northey, and Mosiman a free pass in 2014, Republicans had to nominate candidates for Attorney General and State Treasurer at their state convention. One would think that would mean these candidates would be off to a slow start, but they are running ahead of the Republican candidates who sought the same offices in 2010.
Sam Clovis only decided to run for State Treasurer just days before the Republican state convention in June. Clovis raised $21,300 and has $20,322 in the bank. Clovis obviously has work to do in the fundraising department, but he actually has more money in the bank than Republican Dave Jamison had at this time in 2010. Jamison, who had a contested primary in 2010, had just $12,634 dollars in the bank.
Clovis is running against an entrenched Democrat incumbent in Michael Fitzgerald, who was first elected to the office in 1982. Fitzgerald raised just $4,878 dollars in the fundraising period and reported having $95,453 in the bank at the end of the period. Fitzgerald actually has $27,603 less in the bank in 2014 than he did in 2010. Clovis is a long shot, and this is a difficult office to campaign for, but with a weak Democrat statewide ticket in a strong Republican year, anything can happen.
Republican Attorney General candidate Adam Gregg has been the real surprise. Gregg raised an impressive $191,359 for his campaign against Democrat Tom Miller, and he did it in just four weeks.
Gregg raised more money than the other GOP statewide candidates combined, excluding the Governor. That includes Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of State, State Auditor, and State Treasurer. In fact, his campaign has almost as much cash-on-hand as the Democratic nominee for governor.
Gregg’s impressive fundraising even put him ahead of the pace that Brenna Findley set in her campaign for Attorney General in 2010. In 2010, Findley raised $72,663 and had $163,861 in the bank. Findley’s impressive early fundraising got the attention of national organizations that invested in her campaign. Gregg’s fundraising numbers will likely get him noticed by the same people.
Knocking off Miller, another entrenched Democrat incumbent, will not be easy. Even in 2010, a year that was fantastic for Republicans on the ballot in Iowa, Miller received over 600,000 votes, which is more than Branstad received. Only U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey received more votes in 2010 than Miller.
Findley’s 2010 challenge of Miller has also made him a more prepared candidate. Miller raised $55,826 in the last reporting period and had a solid cash-on-hand number of $245,219.67, but the good news for Republicans is that Gregg is in the ball game. A lot of outside money being could eventually be spent on this race, which would be another advantage for Iowa Republicans.
Republicans have a clear advantage as far as the races for Governor, Auditor, and Secretary of Agriculture are concerned. Democrats have an advantage when it comes to Attorney General and State Treasurer, but Republicans have strong challengers in those races. That leaves the race for Secretary of State, which is a clear toss up.
Current Secretary of State Matt Schultz decided not to seek re-election. Democrat operative Brad Anderson has been running for the seat for almost two years now. Anderson’s campaign got off to a strong state, but the excitement around his candidacy has waned since Schultz opted not to run for re-election. Anderson is sitting on a nice chunk of money. He reported having over $214,000 in the bank after the last reporting period.
If Anderson were running in a cycle where Democrats have a strong ticket, his $214,000 would probably be sufficient. But with a struggling Braley and a floundering Hatch on the top of the Democrat statewide ballot, Anderson will likely need to outperform the top of the ticket if he is to win the Secretary of State job in November.
It is also problematic for Anderson that he is running against Paul Pate, who previously served as Iowa Secretary of State in the mid-nineties. Pate isn’t setting the world on fire as far as fundraising is concerned. He raised $13,729 in the period ad has $56,732 in the bank. Even though he trails Anderson in the money race, he is far ahead of the pace that Schultz set in 2010 when Schultz unseated Mike Mauro, a first-term Democrat incumbent.
The worst thing that happened to Anderson isn’t that he’s running on a statewide ticket with Braley and Hatch, it’s that he set up his entire campaign about running against Schultz, who is not on the ballot. The biggest thing that Pate has going for him is that he is respected leader who served with distinction as a member of the Iowa Senate, as Secretary of State, and as Mayor of Cedar Rapids. Pate may not have the financial advantage in the race, but he doesn’t need it so long as Branstad and other Republicans run strong.
The fundraising numbers are pretty clear. The Republican candidates on the statewide ticket are either in control of their general election race or are mounting a significant challenge to the Democrat incumbent. Republicans are on the offensive in 2014, and unless Braley can find some way to change the tide in the U.S. Senate race in a substantial way, the Democrat ticket is in serious trouble.
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