If we settled Senate elections based on political contributions, Robert “Beto” O’Rourke would win the Texas seat in a landslide. His campaign announced this morning that they had hauled in over $38 million in the third quarter, far exceeding the substantial $12 million raised by incumbent Ted Cruz. The total came from a little over 800,000 individual contributions, averaging a little under $50 apiece:
Democrat Beto O’Rourke raised a stunning $38.1 million in three months, his campaign said on Friday, more than any U.S. Senate candidate has ever raised in a single fundraising quarter. …
O’Rourke’s $38.1 million came from 802,836 individual contributions made to his campaign between July and September. He pledged not to accept money from political action committees or corporations when he launched his campaign.
His latest haul brings his total fundraising since launching his campaign to about $61.7 million. Cruz and his affiliated PACs have now raised about $29.5 million.
Cruz’ $12 million Q3 haul was considered an impressive total when he revealed it last week. O’Rourke has more than tripled it, giving him the record for a fundraising quarter. NBC’s Mark Murray puts it in historical context:
To put Beto’s $38.1M for the quarter into perspective, Barack Obama raised $23.5M in the final quarter before the 2008 IA caucuses and NH primary https://t.co/ALqRwoI7tr
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) October 12, 2018
This is nothing to sneeze at. Both men have plenty of resources for GOTV and ads now, but there’s no denying that O’Rourke has a massive advantage going into the last three weeks. If this was a close race, it might be enough to carry the day just based on a superior turnout model.
However, it’s not a close race, and hasn’t been for some time. This money didn’t just drop out of the sky this week, after all. O’Rourke’s campaign has had access to these funds as they were rolling into their coffers all quarter long. For that matter, Team Beto had outraised Cruz in Q2 by almost a 3:1 margin, and in Q1 by a 2:1 margin. Democrats from all over the country have focused on this race as their best bet to flip Texas into purple status, if not outright blue.
The result of all this money? Er … not much:
O’Rourke’s RCP average hasn’t ever hit the 44% mark, not even while he was raising a boatload of cash and presumably using it to catch up to Cruz. In fact, he spent most of Q3 at a lower level of support than Beto had coming into it, finally gaining a single point above his June average in the last week of the quarter. He may have dragged Cruz down a bit during the same time, but that impact didn’t last. Cruz has now bounced up over 50% in the RCP average for the first time in the campaign, even despite a vast disadvantage on money.
This looks like Democrats using O’Rourke for some serious wishcasting rather than an indication of success. Rather than invest in more winnable contests — Arizona and Nevada certainly come to mind — Democrats bought into the Beto hype early and often. Right now it looks like they’re about to lose a very large bet on Beto, and with it some opportunities to cash in elsewhere.
Still, if I were on Cruz’ team, I’d be nervous. That money can still have an impact, and it might force the GOP’s national orgs to divert resources that could also be used elsewhere. On the other hand, there’s only so much ad time to buy, even in Texas.