The first quarter fundraising period closed on March 31st for candidates seeking federal office. Candidates can still count contributions dated on March 31st, so it usually takes five days to a week before the campaigns begin to roll out their fundraising numbers. The information will be made public on the 15th of the month.
Quarterly fundraising reports are always informative, but the first quarter in an election years is perhaps the most telling report for candidate who are competing in contested primaries. The amount of money that a campaign has in the bank to spend will provide us with a good idea of what a campaign will and will not be able to do in the final three months of the campaign.
It’s put up or shut up time, and with some high-profile Republican primaries, there is a lot to look for. The following are just some of the things that are on my radar.
Third District Congressional Race
State Senator Brad Zaun is the frontrunner in the 3rd District Congressional race, and Secretary of State Matt Schultz is probably Zaun’s main opposition. Zaun and Schultz find themselves in the top tier of the 3rd District race because they are each well-known, elected office holders, and in Zaun’s case, he’s been a fixture in Polk County politics for years and was the Republican nominee for Congress in 2010.
What I find interesting about this race is that it’s not the two frontrunners making noise in the primary, it’s the undercard. Des Moines businessman Robert Cramer has been on TV now for a couple of weeks. In addition to that, he is traveling the district holding town hall meetings. Monte Shaw just started running radio ads across the district, and has assembled an impressive and diverse coalition of supporters.
It is entirely possible that either Shaw or Cramer could outraise Zaun and Schultz in the first reporting fundraising period. One also can’t overlook David Young when it comes to fundraising. Even though Young struggled to catch on in the U.S. Senate race, his fundraising numbers were always strong. If Cramer, Shaw, or Young are able to put up better fundraising numbers that Zaun or Schultz, the dynamics of the 3rd District race will be altered.
Perception is a powerful thing in politics. While Zaun and Schultz enjoy solid name identification and have shown a great ability to connect with Republican activists, they each must also prove that they have what it takes to win in the general election. And like it or not, that’s when a candidate’s fundraising ability comes into play.
If Zaun and Schultz are able to match or exceed the money raised by candidates like Cramer, Shaw, and Young, the race will likely remain a two-man race between Zaun and Schultz. The fact that neither of the frontrunners is currently on TV or radio suggests that their campaigns may not be flush with cash.
If Cramer, Shaw, and Young are able to post better fundraising numbers than the two frontrunners in the race, Zaun and Schultz will be weakened. This is particularly problematic for Schultz because it seems more likely that Shaw and Cramer would cut into his vote share based on their rural and social conservative appeal.
This scenario would also make it more likely that the 3rd District race could be decided at convention. A nominating convention is more likely when you have a number of solid candidates, each getting a decent chunk of the vote.
Needless to say, there is an awful lot riding on the 3rd District fundraising reports.
Miller-Meeks raised $115,000, has $110,000 Cash-on-Hand
Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks has only been an official candidate in the 2nd Congressional District for a month or so, but she has already raised more money than State Representative Mark Lofgren raised all of last year.
Miller-Meeks is an excellent campaigner, and she is the clear favorite to win the Republican nomination in the 2nd Congressional District. While her fundraising number isn’t overly impressive, it’s a good start, and she has twice the amount of money she had in the bank at this time when she ran for Congress in 2008, and in that year she ran against and defeated a well known businessman from Cedar Rapids.
Looking ahead, Miller-Meeks’ fundraising is going to be compared to Congressman Dave Loebsack, who she is running against for the third time. While some may question why Miller-Meeks in challenging Loebsack a third time, the District she is running in this time, while still difficult, is much friendlier than the district she ran against him in 2008 and 2010.
I’m Bullish on Blum
Rod Blum has a primary opponent in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, but like Miller-Meeks, he’s the odds on favorite to win the Republican nomination in June. Blum as a general election candidate excites me. He’s intelligent, a good campaigner, and isn’t about to take a backseat to whoever the Democrats nominate.
It will be interesting to see if Blum’s fundraising has ticked up after State Representative Walt Rogers ended his run for the seat. While Blum needs to take care of business in the primary, it would be silly for him not to start thinking about the general election.
Blum needs to buckle down and focus on fundraising and prove that he’s a legitimate contender in the 1st District. He’s on the National Republican Congressional Committee’s radar, but he needs to do something to get himself noticed in the eyes of the NRCC leadership, and it also wouldn’t hurt if the powers that be in Des Moines started singing his praises when asked about his campaign either.
I can see the Democrats in the 1st District nominating a weak general election candidate. I really like how Blum stacks up against most of their primary field.
Is Ernst happier than a pig in slop?
It will be interesting to see if State Senator Joni Ernst viral TV spot helped her campaign rake in some money in the final week of the first quarter. Ernst’s ad was everywhere last week, which means it may have helped her raise a few last minute dollars, especially from out-of-state donors that got a kick from the ad.
The fundraising reports in the U.S. Senate race are not as mysterious as those in the 3rd District race. We all know that Mark Jacobs is spending a lot of money. We all know that Sam Clovis and Matt Whitaker have struggled to raise significant money. Which means the only wild card is Ernst.
National observers of the Iowa U.S. Senate race have been unimpressed by Ernst’s fundraising totals, but in her defense, while they have not been spectacular, they have been solid. The issue for Ernst is that she needs enough money in the final three months of the campaign to fund TV ads. If she can put the kind of money together to fund a statewide TV effort, we will have a campaign on our hands. If not the race really doesn’t change much.
You know what’s cool?
When Senator Ted Cruz’s staff contact you about running a op-ed on your website.
If you are a Republican interested in running for president and want to know how to approach Iowa, there are two individuals you should be watching. One is Cruz, and the other is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. These two guys are using two very different approaches, but both seem to be savvy political operators. I’m looking forward to 2016.
Braley continues his apology tour.
Congressman Bruce Braley met with Iowa reporters this week and said that his comment about Senator Chuck Grassley not being qualified to serve as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee was a mistake.
You’re a fool if you think that the only time Braley disparaged Senator Grassley was when someone had the video rolling. I’ll say it before, and I’ll say it again – Braley’s statement about Grassley being a poor hick farmer who doesn’t understand the law is Braley’s fundraising pitch to trail lawyers. He didn’t say this just once and get caught. I bet he’s said it hundreds of times to raise millions of dollars.
Braley can apologize all he wants, but the damage is done. When he loses in November, people will look back at this moment and say this is where Braley lost the race.
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