The Money Factor

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 21, 2016 — Breaking information is now allowing us to categorize the recent rhetoric from strategists’ in both parties. The newly released Federal Election Commission financial disclosure reports and accompanying media spending figures give us a pretty clear indication about which races are truly hot, versus those that can be classified as pretenders.

The 3rd quarter disclosure reports are available for most campaigns but some of the Senate contests, such as the critical Missouri and Indiana races, have not yet been processed and released to the public.

According to a Politico report, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has reserved more media time than their Republican counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But, most of the Republican Senate candidates report more cash-on-hand than their Democratic opponents, thus making the resource deficit a bit less pronounced.

In the eight key Senate races, Democrats are poised to spend more media money in seven. Only in Florida is the Republican buy larger than the Democrats’. But when adding the candidates’ own resources to the picture, the spending evens out.

Looking at the eight reported races where the national committees are reserving media time, and adding the known candidate treasuries, Democrats look to be spending more in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while Republicans are investing a greater amount in Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina.

The media buys for Indiana and Missouri give us an idea as to how total spending will break down in the two places even though the FEC has not yet released updated candidate reports for the pair of states.

Since former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh had the early advantage in campaign resources, the fact that the DSCC is spending $7.0 million as compared to the NRSC’s $4.3 million will almost assuredly give the Democrats an advantage.

In Missouri, the Dems reserved media buy is $8.1 million opposite $6.4 million from the GOP. But, it is also very likely that Sen. Roy Blunt’s campaign resources are greater than Jason Kander’s, thus, the Republicans will likely drop slightly more resources into the Show Me State race than will the Democrats.

The House picture is a bit better defined, at least based upon the individual campaign spending patterns. In the 37 contests rated as either Likely or Lean Republican, 35 of the Republican nominees enjoy a resource advantage. One, the 25th District of California (Rep. Steve Knight-R vs. Bryan Caforio-D), is virtually even in resources and spending, while the Democrats have a clear advantage in Virginia’s 5th District, the battle between Republican state Sen. Tom Garrett and Democratic local official Jane Dittmar.

Conversely, in the 19 contests that are viewed as Likely or Lean Democratic, it is the Democrats who enjoy the financial edge for each one of these campaigns.

But, the 16-race Toss-up category is more interesting. Of those, 14 are currently in the Republican column and just two, the open FL-18 (Rep. Patrick Murphy-D running for Senate) and NE-2 (Rep. Brad Ashford-D), are already in the Democratic camp.

Within the group, Democrats have the financial edge in seven, all of which are open seats with the exception of one pair: the aforementioned Rep. Ashford in NE-2, and GOP Rep. Scott Garrett’s NJ-5.

Republicans hold the resource edge in five seats, all incumbent GOP districts. One Independent, entrepreneur Martin Babinec in the open NY-22 seat (Rep. Richard Hanna-R retiring), is the only minor party candidate in the nation to hold a fundraising lead. In three others, the parties are virtually even in resources: ME-2 (Rep. Bruce Poliquin-R vs. Emily Cain-D), the open NV-3 (Danny Tarkanian-R vs. Jacky Rosen-D) seat, and NV-4 (Rep. Cresent Hardy-R opposing state Sen. Ruben Kihuen-D).

Though the Democrats will likely claim more of the toss-up races, not enough seats reside in this category to allow them to dent the Republican majority in any significant manner. This means they will have to gain even more from the Lean Republican column, but with a Democratic resource disadvantage in almost every circumstance, doing so becomes all the harder.

Despite Democrats’ claims that they could score a sweep in House races, it is more likely their gains are closer to the 12-15 range than they are to the 30-34 needed to assume the slightest of majorities.

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