Clearly, candidates such as O’Rourke and Abrams have captured the imaginations of progressives longing to strike a blow against President Trump. But those candidates don’t need the daydreams of out-of-state progressives as much as the votes of the citizens of the red states where they’re running. Unless the money can be translated into votes, it’s a nice gesture but not much help.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, money doesn’t necessarily move the needle all that much in elections. Successful candidates do tend to out-fundraise their opponent, but as social scientists are fond of telling us, “correlation is not causation” — snowdrifts don’t produce cold weather.
When it comes to money and political success, the causation may run the other way. No one wants to waste money on a no-hope candidate, so the first thing potential donors look for is a plausible path to victory. That’s going to steer money toward candidates who were already likely to win. When they do, it will feel to the supporter like the donation “worked.”