Money does not buy elections. We saw that most notably in 2016 when Donald Trump was massively outspent by Hillary Clinton and still won the presidency. In fact, the Trump campaign spent only half as much as the Clinton campaign. But, in order to run the campaign you want to and set yourself up for victory, you do need enough funds.
While the political headwinds appear to be against Republicans around the country going into November, at least in Wisconsin, the GOP holds the advantage in the fundraising battle. Republican candidates for governor, attorney general, and both the senate and assembly legislative committees hold cash advantages over their Democrat counterparts going into the home stretch.
Scott Walker has been a fundraising machine ever since the 2012 recalls that made him a national political celebrity. Couple that with his recent stint as chair of the Republican Governors Association, and money was not going to be a question in his third reelection. Republicans currently control 33/50 governorships across the country.
Tony Evers, on the other hand, had to battle through a large primary and has only been the sole Democrat on the ballot since August 14. Walker has been a boogeyman for Democrats ever since the 2011 battle over union power. Because of that, Evers has had a decent amount of national money coming in, but not nearly enough to overcome his opponent's fundraising advantage.
- Walker: $8.4 million
- Evers: $2.5 million
On Hand (8/31)
- Walker: $4.1 million
- Evers: $1.6 million
Republican Brad Schimel is running in his first re-election after replacing J.B. Van Hollen in the 2014 election. Previously the Waukesha County District Attorney, Schimel won his election comfortably, albeit a smaller margin than Walker’s re-election.
Democrat Josh Kaul is largely unknown to the electorate and has not campaigned as aggressively as expected. His fundraising numbers are good, thanks to a nationwide network of liberal attorneys and the fact that he is former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager’s son, but he is consistently down in the same polls that show Evers tied or leading Walker in the governor’s election.
- Schimel: $882,000
- Kaul: $918,000
On Hand (8/31)
- Schimel: $1.1 million
- Kaul: $966,000
There are four legislative committees that represent the four different legislative caucuses when it comes to campaigns: Committee to Elect a Republican Senate, Senate Democratic Campaign Committee, Republican Assembly Campaign Committee, and the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee.
Thanks to recent campaign finance law changes, each committee can essentially fund the races of their members on its own if they choose and gives legislative leadership even more power over their individual members. It is normal for interest groups to donate to whatever party is in power, even when their priorities may be different.
Additionally, if you’re a Republican and think Scott Walker might lose the governor’s office, you want a Republican legislature there as a backstop to Democrats completely changing the landscape in Madison. It is in these committees where you can see the largest disparity, at least by percentage.
- CERS: $657,000
- SSDC: $561,000
- RACC: $853,000
- ADCC: $717,000
On Hand (8/31)
- CERS: $897,000
- SSDC: $221,000
- RACC: $960,000
- ADCC: $169,000
A lot can change in even a week of the election cycle. Money by no means is a predictor of success, especially in an environment where one party appears to have such high public support over the other. But going into the home stretch, Republicans are in a better place to run the campaigns they want to run.