Senate candidates pour millions into their own competitive races
It’s crunch time for Senate hopefuls, and in competitive races, wealthy candidates are reaching into their own wallets to gain a cash advantage.
Rick Scott leads the self-financing pack in his race to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). Scott loaned himself a whopping $18 million in the third quarter, bringing his total self-contributions to nearly $39 million this cycle.
This level of self-financing hasn’t been seen in a Senate race since 2012 when Linda McMahon — now head of the Small Business Administration — poured $49 million into her unsuccessful campaign for Chris Murphy’s Connecticut Senate seat. She spent $100 million between two campaigns for Senate in 2010 and 2012.
Scott, the current Governor of Florida, has self-funded more than 70 percent of his campaign, spending $52 million as of the most recent filing deadline. He’s getting support from New Republican PAC, which has spent $16.8 million opposing Nelson. While Scott’s campaign is forbidden from coordinating with the Super PAC, the two are closely-tied.
Nelson, a three-term incumbent, raised $25 million through the first three quarters and has $8.5 million cash on hand. He and Scott are effectively tied in the polls up to this point.
In another toss-up race, this time for Bob Corker’s vacated Senate seat in Tennessee, Phil Bredesen poured $2 million into his campaign last quarter. The former Governor of Tennessee has now shelled out than $5.5 million in his race against Rep. Marsha Blackburn.
If not for Bredesen’s cash, he would be outraised by Blackburn, who’s pulled in $2.3 million from PAC contributions.
Outside groups are heavily targeting the crucial Senate seat. Nearly $30 million has been spent in opposition to Bredesen and $14 million against Blackburn.
Bredesen’s support has declined as the race has gone on, and polls are all over the place. Bredesen is up one point in a recent Vanderbilt University poll, but Blackburn leads by 14 points in an October New York Times poll.
Republican Mike Braun has slowly been gaining on incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) in the polls — down just two points in the most recent Fox News poll — and he pumped in $2.4 million toward his campaign in the third quarter.
Braun spent $5.4 million of his own money during the Republican primaries but had not spent his own money on the general election until recently.
Despite Braun’s self-funding, Donnelly has collected more money — $14.5 million to $13.3 million — and has $4.5 million in cash for the stretch run, compared to $1.9 million for Braun.
Donnelly has portrayed himself as the ultimate moderate in advertisements against the pro-Trump Braun. He leads by four points in a recent poll.
Bob Hugin’s race against incumbent Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is less competitive — Menendez leads by nine points in Monmouth’s most recent poll — but that hasn’t stopped Hugin from putting $24 million into his own campaign.
Hugin lent his campaign $8.5 million in the third quarter and raised just over $1 million in contributions.
Menendez — who has been engulfed by scandals in the last four years — has raised nearly $11 million in contributions, compared to approximately $2 million for Hugin.
There doesn’t appear to be much excitement for the two candidates among small donors. Just 2.7 percent of Menendez’s funds come from small donors and a paltry .36 percent of Hugin’s.
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