Guess Who’s Got the Money Advantage?

With all the dark money sloshing around these days, it’s hard to figure out which side in any given cycle has a money advantage, or has the most resources in reserve as we near Election Day. But there’s a growing buzz that if Republicans win the Senate, it won’t be because Democrats were significantlly outgunned financially.

Here’s how Charlie Cook put it in his latest National Journal column:

Perhaps the biggest untold story of this election is how so many Republican and conservative donors, at least those whose last name isn’t Koch, have kept their checkbooks relatively closed. In many cases, GOP candidates are not enjoying nearly the same financial largesse that existed in 2012, and in some races, they are well behind Democrats. While Republican candidates, national party committees, and super PACs are hardly starving, their Senate and House campaign committees have not been able to keep pace in fundraising with their Democratic counterparts. Their super PACs do not have nearly the funding that they had in 2012 (even allowing for the absence of a presidential race this year). And, in a number of key races, Democratic candidates, party committees, and their allied groups have been on the air significantly more than Republicans. GOP strategists have privately said that if it were not for spending by organizations affiliated with the Koch brothers, they might well be in really bad shape.

Many Republican and conservative donors appear to be somewhat demoralized after 2012. They feel that they were misled about the GOP’s chances in both the presidential and senatorial races that year, and/or their money was not well spent. In short, they are giving less if at all, and it has put Republican candidates in a bind in a number of places.

On the spending side of the ledger, the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks campaign ads, shows Democrats with a sizable advantage in the number of Senate ads run the last two weeks. During the same juncture in the 2010 cycle, Republicans led in ads run by nearly a two-to-one margin.

Again, this could all be misleading or not especially matter. But as I keep trying to explain, the widespread assumption that Republicans would get all the breaks down the home stretch of this cycle seems to depend on various unsubstantiated assumptions, including (most likely) the expectation that the GOP would have a late money advantage. It’s really not looking that way.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.