Keith Fimian’s campaign finance numbers were pretty impressive this cycle Virtucon reported today, but aside from Fimian raising more money than Gerry Connolly is an indicator that Connolly really is on the ropes in this election. Sometimes it’s not the numbers you get, but how you get the numbers that is important.
Both Connolly and Fimian are pretty much on par with their fundraising pace from 2008, although this quarter Fimian seems to have stepped it up a bit. Perhaps the most significant statistic is the remaining money on-hand at this point in the election cycle, and here Fimian is somewhat in a weaker position after having to spend quite a bit fending off a primary challenge. So looking strictly at cash on hand, Connolly’s somewhat marginal advantage might make folks think that he’s in the stronger position here.
That is, if you made the association between campaign finance and votes. Of course we’ve seen plenty of cases where the candidate with the bigger warchest didn’t win an election. While it’s important for a candidate to have the resources needed in order to communicate with voters, when the relative financial advantage isn’t overwhelming cash alone isn’t going to decide an election. That’s especially true when Democrats, who are pressured into throwing unconscionable amounts of money towards vendors and consultants preferred by the state and national party organizations, end up wasting a significant portion of that warchest.
What the campaign finance reports can reveal is something more important than whether candidate A has a marginal advantage over candidate B. They can show who is getting donations from individuals, and whether the money flowing into the campaign is coming from within the district. With multiple election cycles, we can also see how things have changed between cycles. In this case, things have changed a lot.
In the 2008 race between these two candidates, both raised about $2 million. Connolly got about 32% of his money from PACs, and a significant amount of money from outside of the district. Fimian got 7% of his money from PACs, self-financed 4%, and got relatively little from outside the district. Fast forward to 2010, and Connolly’s percentage of PAC money rose to 46% and his out-of-district percentage rose, while Fimian’s dropped to 6% with no self-financing and stayed about the same in terms of inside vs. outside the district.
So here we see Connolly’s ability to raise money from individuals within the district has dropped substantially, and he’s had to rely on Labor Unions and special interest PACS even more than during his 2008 race in order to remain competitive. You’d think that someone whose contributions from PACs jumped from $650K to nearly $1 million would be kicking butt, but here Connolly is no more than treading water.
So who is supporting Connolly? Unions like the SEIU, Democrat campaign committees like “Fattah for Congress” in Pennsylvania, PACs run by big businesses like Comcast, and interesting sounding and obviously liberal groups like “Grassroots Organizing Acting and Leading PAC.” Just about none of them are based in Virginia, and they don’t vote.
When I see a candidate significantly losing support from individual donors in his district and having to make up the difference with out of state PAC money, and they’re being challenged by someone whose share of in-district individual contributions is growing, that tells me this election is going to be dramatically different than the last one. Those individuals in the district actually vote in addition to opening their wallets, so not only is it nice for a campaign to get their money, but it’s a solid indication about what level of support the candidate has from actual voters, rather than labor unions and PACs.
Based on the victory by Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli in the 11th District in 2009, Keith Fimian was going to run pretty close here, all things being equal. This election cycle they’re not, as Connolly sheds voter support and Fimian continues to build it as evidenced by the most recent campaign finance report.
Looks like Gerry Connolly is going to get that intervention after all.
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