Regardless of Party, Big Fundraisers are Big Winners in Senate Races

Owen Poindexter | November 03, 2010

Nov. 3, 2010 - Of the 35 Senate candidates who won election on Tuesday, 29 of them out-raised their opponents, some by wide margins (two races, Alaska and Washington have not been decided). For comparison, in what was widely considered a big victory, Republicans won 23 out of the 35 races. As successful as the G.O.P. was, well-funded candidates as a group beat them by 6 seats.

The Narrowest Victories

Of the five closest races with a declared outcome*, the winner held a financial advantage in all but one of them. In Colorado, Democrat Michael Bennett ( $11,463,411), who barely squeaked out a victory raised three times more than his Republican opponent, Ken Buck ($3,827,432). Republican Mark Kirk ($12,759,089) won President Obama's former Senate seat in Illinois by a narrow margin with the help of $4.4 million more than his opponent, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias ($8,404,220). The result in Pennsylvania was similar, where Republican Pat Toomey ($14,832,115) won a close contest over Democrat Joseph Sestak ($9,271,042), spending $5.5 million dollars more than him in the process.

Other Close Contests

In two other close senate races, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid kept his Nevada seat ($22,635,642), edging out Sharon Angle ($21,470,516), after having raised $1.2 million more than her (Reid and Angle were two of the four Senate candidates to raise over $20 million) and Ron Johnson ($12,837,349) ousted longterm incumbent Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold ($18,249,555), despite Feingold's advantage of $5.4 million.

Exceptions to the Rule

In addition to Johnson, five other candidates won despite being outraised. The largest example of this was Linda McMahon ($46,682,270), who lost the Connecticut seat to Democrat Richard Blumenthal ($7,600,984), despite giving her own campaign over $46 million, more than twice the total raised by any other candidate except Arizona Republican John McCain ($28,608,880), who retained his seat easily. The other candidates who won despite lower fundraising totals were Democrat Joe Manchin in West Virginia ($3,351,829), Democrat  Chris Coons in Delaware ($3,294,824), Republican Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire ($4,403,599), who was just a quarter of a million shy of her opponent, and Republican John Boozman in Arkansas ($3,223,075). All other winners outraised their opponents, with a median advantage of $4.4 million.

* At the time of writing, the Washington State senate race between Democrat Patty Murray and Republican Dino Rossi was still to close to call. Murray has raised twice what Rossi has ($15.3 million to $7.4 million).

Campaign contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets, and includes PAC and individual contributions. Date range of contributions: January 1, 2009 - November 3, 2010.