By Hastings Wyman –
Money isn’t everything, but it’s way ahead of whatever is in second place, says an old saw. In politics, that’s almost true. The candidate with the most money is certainly advantaged, but it’s not rare – not typical but not rare either – for a candidate to outspend his or her opponent and end up losing on Election Day.
The filing deadline for financial reports for the 3rd Quarter isn’t until October 15, though additional information may be released by the campaigns in the coming days. For now, however, we can already tell from the reports for the first half of the year that the incumbent US Senators from Dixie – Republicans all – are flush with cash. Only one challenger, Patrick Murphy (D) in Florida, has raised plenty of money, but he spent most of it winning a contested primary. But the latest poll, by Opinion Savvy for Fox News, showed Rubio with a 47%-43% lead, not enough to crow about.
As of June 30, US Sen. Richard Shelby (AL) had the most cash-on-hand of the Southern Senate candidates, with $9,834,000, followed by US Sen. Richard Burr (NC) with $6,953,000. Shelby’s generous stash is hardly necessary, as his seriously underfunded opponent, Ron Crumpton, is a marijuana activist, hardly a starter in Alabama politics. Burr, on the other hand, despite a substantial financial lead, will need every cent and more, with polls showing him essentially tied with Deborah Ross, an unknown former state representative and former head of the state’s ACLU.
Polling to date suggests that fewer voters are splitting their tickets than used to be the case, which means if either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton ends up with a major lead by Election Day, it could have a major impact on down-ballot races, including those for the US Senate. If the current trend showing Clinton gaining in the battleground states prevails, it should be a substantial help to the Democratic candidates in Florida and North Carolina. The Georgia race will be the tough for the Democrats, but if Clinton regains her earlier strength in the Peach State, millionaire Jim Barksdale could make things uncomfortably close for early favorite Isakson.
In addition, should the trend to Clinton take on landslide proportions – which may not happen in the South – Democratic candidates in Senate races in Arkansas and Kentucky could also be helped. Both former prosecutor Connor Eldridge (D) in Arkansas and Lexington Mayor/industrialist Jim Gray are bringing in enough money to get their names out there.
For now, however, the safer – not safe but safer – bet is for the incumbent Republican US Senators* to be reelected in Dixie.
FEC reports for the first half of 2016** in Southern Senate races
Candidate Am’t rec’d Cash-on-hand
AL Richard Shelby (R) $3,004,000 $9,834,000
Ron Crumpton (D) 25,000 4,000
AR John Boozman (R) 3,269,000 2,079,000
Connor Eldridge (D) 1,316,000 315,000
FL Marco Rubio (R) 5,432,000 4,676,000
Patrick Murphy (D) 11,144,000 3,994,000
GA Johnny Isakson (R) 6,520,000 5,716,000
Jim Barksdale (D) 2,084,000 1,592,000
KY Rand Paul (R) 3.158,000 2,224,000
Jim Gray (D) 2,858,000 1,077,000
NC Richard Burr (R) 8,309,000 6,953,000
Deborah Ross (D) 3,978,000 1,909,000
OK James Lankford (R) 2,234,000 1,148,000
Mike Workman (D) na na
SC Tim Scott (R) 5,243,000 5,532,000
Thomas Dixon (D) na na
* SPR will discuss the nine-candidate open-primary race in Louisiana in a subsequent issue.
** The periods covered by the reports may vary somewhat.