Where Did Money Make a Difference in Midterms?
Republicans dominated the Senate elections, and they also dominated campaign fundraising. Those two facts seem to go hand in hand. However, a closer look at the numbers show that an excess of funds was not the key to victory in every election.
It’s clear that money, as always, had a huge effect on the campaign. According to the Center for Responsive politics, the total cost of the election should come to about $3.67 billion, not too much more than 2010, but following the constant increase trend. OpenSecrets.org reports that “counting all forms of spending — by candidates, parties and outside groups — Team Red is projected to have spent $1.75 billion, while Team Blue’s spending is projected to ring in at $1.64 billion.” So while Republicans didn’t completely blow Dems out of the water int spending, they had the definite edge, and it showed in the voting results, right?
Sort of. Yes, according to OpenSecrets.org, Republican candidates raised $63 million, while Democratic candidates pulled in $45 million in open seat races. And in the five states Democrats are leaving, Republicans had $41 million to Democrats’ $29 million. But it isn’t true that more money equaled a win in every state.
Democrats held onto a seat in Michigan, where Rep. Gary Peters beat out Republican Terri Land — Peters raised $9.5 million, while Land raised $11.9 million. Adversely, Democrats raised more funds in Iowa as well, but lost that race. And in Georgia, Democrat Michelle Nunn raised $2.5 million more than Sen. David Perdue (R), but still lost to incumbent Perdue.
That’s not to say that money wasn’t a huge factor in the campaigns. Some states broke records by a mile in campaign spending — most notably North Carolina, where Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan was defeated by challenger Thom Tillis in a battle that cost $113.3 million, according to OpenSecrets.org. Compare that to 2012, a presidential election year when more attention was on all candidates, when the most expensive race was the Massachusetts Senate, which cost $84.4 million. The real notable difference, though, is that the candidates raised $77.2 million of that total. Meanwhile in this year’s North Carolina race, the candidates only accounted for $32.3 million of the total $113.3 million cost.
That’s right. Outside spending — super PACs, non-profits, etc. — made up 13% of the campaign spending, but definitely showed its influence more in some states than in others. OpenSecrets.org notes that outside spending is up in general, but spending by groups who don’t disclose all of their donors is up “most sharply” — such groups reported spending $160.8 million in 2010 and $215.6 million this election cycle. OpenSecrets.org attributes 69% of that spending to Republican or conservative-leaning groups.
Megadonors outshone smaller donors, though small donors ($200 or less) did contribute more to Democrats in 2014 than in 2010, but not by much (about $100,000). Meanwhile, Republicans lost support from small donors: In 2010, Republicans raised $212.8 million from small donors, while this cycle they have only raised $150.7 million from them.