One of the metrics by which one can measure race competitiveness is money – how much candidates are raising, and where people are spending. A bunch of recent stories show the problems for the GOP, and why any tightening narrative should be treated with caution.
Let’s start with the Presidential race, where dual stories around Joe Biden’s and Donald Trump’s finances have shown a stark problem for the GOP. Biden raised $364.5M in August, a record month, and has been spending, even in stretch targets. He has been blitzing Michigan and Pennsylvania, where the Trump campaign is off the air, and in doing so he’s kept a very, very strong lead in Michigan – with the four most recent polls of the state having three double digit leads for the challenger. Pennsylvania is a state that isn’t as blue this year, with the President staying competitive according to recent Monmouth data (not so much according to Quinnipiac), so the Biden spending is hugely significant if he wants to keep his mid single digits lead there. He’s also spending in Ohio, where he has ad buys scheduled until Election Day according to Medium Buying, and while he is not currently up in Georgia and Texas, he has money allocated for October buys in both states (subject to change). He is using his money to play a wide board, including Iowa, where the Democrats sense a Senate pickup opportunity.
The incumbent, on the other hand, is considering a $100M influx of cash into his own campaign, a sign of trouble for the President after New York Times stories on the weekend outlined his weakness, and his cash crunch. Their campaign hasn’t been on the air in Michigan in a while, but they’re going back on the air there this week – but not in Pennsylvania, where the President has a much better chance of winning. They’re also off the air in Arizona, which seems like a mini-triage. The note of caution is that there’s time to go back on the air in both places, but with Martha McSally in a death spiral in Arizona Senate, the NRSC and various GOP Super PACs may also be heading elsewhere to more fruitful pastures. If the President makes the big payment to his campaign, some of these problems go away, but if they can’t match Biden across a wide board, they’re going to have to triage somewhere, and as of now it looks like Joe Biden is ahead by enough to force some of that soon.
Head to the Senate level, and the story is similar. In Kansas Senate, the GOP got their guy in Roger Marshall, a non-controversial pick against the firebrand that is Kris Kobach. That primary win for the party was supposed to take the seat off the table, but yet we now see a Republican Super PAC spending $5M to defend the race. The only non-partisan poll of the race was a crowdfunded SurveyUSA poll which had Marshall up 2, but this GOP spending must be a sign that they’re worried. Democrat Barbara Bollier has cash, some GOP endorsements, and the GOP have clearly seen some bad polling to cause this investment.
The last race where cash should be making the GOP nervous is the David Perdue Senate race down in Georgia, where Jon Ossoff raised a record amount in August for the state and polls have him in play. That $4M in August will go a long way to keeping him in the race till the end, and means that the GOP will have to keep spending and spending in Georgia. The fact that they won’t be able to ignore this race and let Perdue do it on his own means they’ll need more money to play the rest of the board, which they don’t seem to have a whole lot of, or they’ll need to pull money from races they’d rather continue to spend in.
All in, the money situation makes for a troubling pattern for the GOP – Democrats have lots and lots of cash, and lots of places where they would like to win, but don’t need to win. The GOP have less cash, lot of places they need to win, and lots of warning signs. The GOP are acting worried, especially given the decision to spend in Kansas, and they’re running out of time.
Evan Scrimshaw (@EScrimshaw) is Managing Editor and Head Of Content at LeanTossup.ca and a contributor to Decision Desk HQ.