You know a political race is going to be hot when the candidates are pushing out spin on their fundraising months before the election. That’s what happened this week in the U.S. Senate race in West Virginia as the deadline approached for the latest campaign finance reports.
Incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin raised $900,00 in the third quarter and reports $4.1 million in the bank. “Manchin’s haul is larger than the combined fundraising totals of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Congressman Evan Jenkins,” the campaign said in a release.
Jenkins raised $220,000 during the quarter and has $1.2 million cash on hand. “We are proud that 70 percent of our donors are West Virginia voters, while Morrisey is financing his campaign with dirty cash from the D.C. Swamp and globalist corporations that know he’s for sale,” said campaign spokesman Andy Sere.
Morrisey collected $700,000 and has $548,000 in the bank. Morrisey’s fundraising haul is more than TRIPLE the $220,000 raised by his primary opponent, Evan Jenkins, in the same reporting period,” said Morrisey campaign spokesperson Nachama Soloveichik. “Jenkins also burned through his entire fundraising haul this quarter.”
This is just a hint of what’s to come, with Jenkins and Morrisey going toe-to-toe to determine which Republican will take on Manchin next November. Thirty-three seats are up next year, but only eight to ten are viewed as competitive. West Virginia is near the top.
The Cook Political Report has the Manchin race as one of three in the toss-up category, along with races in Indiana where incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly is running for reelection and Missouri where another incumbent Democrat, Claire McCaskill, is expected to be in a tough fight.
Sabato’s Crystal Ball has the race leaning Manchin at the moment, and rates the race behind toss-ups in Indiana, Missouri, Nevada and Arizona. Managing Editor Kyle Kondik says West Virginia is clearly on the radar of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Republican Senatorial Committee.
Those organizations, along with Democratic and Republican aligned political action committees, will pump big money into these high profile races. The individual candidate fundraising is important because it is an indicator of the candidate’s viability, but no candidate in a race this big can do it all on their own. The third party money is vital, and flows only as long as the contributors believe their candidate has a chance of winning.
Jay Rockefeller rocked the political world when he spent $12 million of his own money to win the Governor’s race in 1980 and then matched that amount to win a U.S. Senate seat four years later. In today’s dollars, that would be over $28 million.
It’s hard to imagine a U.S. Senate candidate in 2018 raising and spending that kind of money in a small state—and the calculations are going to be harder to make because of third party spending—but as long as the race remains close the money will come pouring in.