Sunday, July 20, 2008

Follow the Money Trail in the Tar Heel Senate Race

A recent swath of polls done in North Carolina show that incumbent U.S. Senator and Republican Elizabeth Dole has regained a comfortable lead against Democratic challenger and N.C. state senator Kay Hagan. Most recently, Rasmussen released a poll last week showing that, unlike Sen. John McCain (who was only up 3 points over Sen. Barack Obama in the state), Dole has a double-digit lead in the Tar Heel state. This, when combined with a Survey USA, Public Policy Polling, and Civitas polls since June 1, shows Dole with a double-digit lead of anywhere from 10 to 14 points. But more importantly than polls at this stage of the political season is the poll of money--specifically, campaign contributions.

It is often quoted that "money is the mother's milk of politics." And in the upcoming battle for the U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina, both campaigns are seeking to ensure that they've got plenty of milk on stand-by for this fall's contest.

In Federal Election Commission filings released for the quarter ending June 30, current U.S. Senator and Republican Elizabeth Dole raised nearly $1.65 million while Democratic challenger Kay Hagan raised $1.42 million. Out of Dole's fundraising, $1.28 million came from individuals, while Political Actions Committees gave $331,306 to the Republican's efforts. Out of Hagan's fundraising, $1.14 million came from individuals, while PACs gave $282,700 to the Democrat's efforts.

As we enter the critical period leading into the general campaign (which "informally" begins around Labor Day), Hagan had $1.21 million on hand, while Dole had $2.7 million. One of the key tests for whether this U.S. Senate race will be a competitive one will be how much Hagan will be able to raise before the true campaign begins. With most Americans turning their attention to the waning days of summer, getting those last minute vacations in, and watching the Beijing Olympics, both candidates will probably be shoring up their bank accounts prior to Labor Day's festivities beginning.

One other interesting note about this race: the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, or DSCC, has apparently reserved ad time in the tune of potentially $5 to $6 million. With that large of a media buy, it may be indicative of a race that the national Democratic Party has its eyes on.

Just a cursory glance at the filings at the Federal Election Commission's website for this race shows that the DSCC seems to be very interested in this Tar Heel race. When compared to the other competitive senatorial races around the country by Charlie Cook, Kay Hagan was second, only to the Oregonian Democratic challenger, in receiving money so far in this election cycle (2007-08 as of July 20): a total of $145,802 was sent by the DSCC to Kay Hagan's campaign in "party coordinated expenditures."

This, combined with the potential media buy, will probably lead to the Tar Heel state being awash in mother's milk come the November general election.