And on the seventh day, they made sure no one rested. As a few people quipped a week ago, let’s hope that Georgians enjoy political advertising, because every moment of broadcast inventory is about to get bought up right through the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The opening week of the Georgia runoff cycle gives us a very good look at the all-in nature of this contest for control of the Senate. The Hill and the Wall Street Journal report that the campaigns for Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have combined forces with the NRSC in fundraising, and have raised $32 million in just the first six days of the new campaign.
Let’s start with the WSJ, which notes that Democrats already seem to be trailing:
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has combined with the campaigns of Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to raise $32 million over the past six days, as they gear up for crucial runoff elections that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee declined to share its fundraising numbers on Thursday, but the group has announced it will commit to a multimillion dollar field effort to register Georgians for the Jan. 5 runoffs and to get out the vote.
Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams’s voting-rights group, Fair Fight, announced on Nov. 10 that GASenate.com had raised about $9.8 million for the runoffs since 7 p.m. on Friday. The group did not give the Journal updated figures on Thursday, but tweeted that in five days, more than 125,000 supporters had contributed to Democrats’ runoff efforts in Georgia.
The Hill reports that Lindsey Graham has shifted some of his unused funds to the new combine:
And on Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said his campaign had donated $1 million to the NRSC in support of Loeffler and Perdue. The South Carolina senator’s campaign said he had raised $1.1 million for Perdue and Loeffler since Monday.
Let’s get a good perspective on that fundraising haul, too. The $32 million raised in six days for the combined campaigns outstrips what all but one of the contenders raised in the entire 2020 cycle. Jon Ossoff raised $32.3 million during his 2020 effort to unseat Perdue, who only raised $21 million. Ossoff also outspent Perdue by almost a 2:1 margin, $28.1M to $15.3M, and still fell nearly 100,000 votes short of Perdue in the election.
The numbers got more spread out in the all-in special election for Loeffler’s seat, but Loeffler did raise $28.2M to Raphael Warnock’s $21.7M. Warnock outperformed Loeffler, but she also had to contend with a far more serious challenger in her own party, Doug Collins, who has since gone all-in to support Loeffler’s special-election bid. Collins raised $6.2M in the general election.
The sudden and massive haul for Republicans stands out against these earlier fundraising numbers, both in size and speed. Everyone expects both sides to raise big numbers eventually in these runoffs, considering what’s at stake. The big surprise is how quickly the GOP has been able to convert on the issue. If they can keep that pace up, Democrats will be hard pressed to keep up.
That doesn’t just apply to fundraising either. The money won’t just be used for advertising, at least on the GOP side. The WSJ says that the Republican combine envisions a ground game on the highest level:
Now more than a dozen NRSC staff members, including senior aides, are embedded with the Perdue and Loeffler campaigns on the ground in the Peach State to help with political, communications, data, surrogate, field, and digital operations.
They are working to build a presidential-level voter-contact operation—a massive field program that includes 21 regional field directors and 1,000 field staff, said NRSC spokesman Jesse Hunt.
Money means a lot in political campaigns, but how it gets spent is much more important. Advertising is important, but it’s easy to get saturated, and it doesn’t connect as well as person-to-person engagement. Democrats missed that this cycle, which likely goes a long way to explain why they lost at every level except the presidency in 2020. Republicans had a superior ground game, and this follow-on effort builds on that effort. Democrats are still scrambling to catch up, and not just in cash.
Democrats already started the runoffs in the hole, having trailed in the overall vote in both senatorial contests in the general election. That hole just got deeper, even before out-of-state progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez show up to keep digging it.