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July 15, 2014

Grimes sets fundraising record with $4M quarter

McConnell’s total haul of $25M also best ever

FRANKFORT — FRANKFORT — Republican Mitch McConnell has made quite a career out of raising far more money than his political opponents and then using his cash advantage to pound them relentlessly with television ads.

It’s been a pretty successful formula — McConnell is completing a fifth term in the U.S. Senate as Minority Leader while seeking a sixth. He hopes this time to be joined by a Republican majority whose members will make him majority leader.

But his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, isn’t cooperating as much as McConnell’s previous opponents. Grimes again caught everyone’s attention Tuesday by announcing she’s raised more than $4 million in the second quarter, smashing McConnell’s 2008 record of $2.9 million for a single quarter.

That’s not to say McConnell isn’t raking in the big bucks, too. He is.

He raised $3.1 million in the second quarter, which would’ve been a Kentucky record except for Grimes’ even larger haul. Still, the McConnell team, which waited to release fundraising numbers until after Grimes had, noted that he’s raised more than $25 million for the 2014 cycle, also an all-time record.

“Sen. McConnell has broken a Kentucky fundraising record and is well-positioned to take a substantial cash advantage and a lead in the polls in this November’s race,” said McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore.

The reference to the polls apparently pertains to an internal poll McConnell released last week showing him with a 7-point lead over Grimes. However, most independent polls have consistently shown the race within the margin of error, some showing Grimes with a slight lead while others show McConnell with a slim lead.

And his “substantial cash advantage” isn’t quite as substantial as it once was.

McConnell began raising money for the 2014 race more than a year ago, and he had to spend heavily during the primary period when he faced a challenge from Matt Bevin, who he easily defeated. The McConnell team says much of that spending was on campaign infrastructure and grassroots organization which will be utilized in the general campaign.

Nevertheless, McConnell’s cash on hand advantage over Grimes continues to dwindle. As of Tuesday, McConnell reported $9.8 million cash on hand, but that’s down $600,000 from his first-quarter report when he had $10.4 million on hand and Grimes had just under $5 million in the bank.

Grimes, who trailed McConnell in that category by $9 million when she got in the race a year ago, reported Tuesday she has $6.2 million in the bank now.

In total, she’s raised $11.3 million in just 12 months, less than half of what McConnell has raised overall but more than he’s raised during the same year. She’s also spent less so far.

Those fundraising numbers will continue to grow as the two candidates keep beating the bushes for money to fuel television advertising, polling and grassroots organization.

On top of that, outside political action groups are spending heavily already on the race and will likely spend more as Election Day nears. It’s easy to see why many expect this to be a $100 million contest and the most expensive in the country.

Grimes’ campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton said the campaign “will certainly have the resources to deliver Alison’s message to all four corners of the state and to win in November.”

She said the $11.3 million includes 8,400 unique contributors from all 120 Kentucky counties and all 50 states with 100,000 contributions of under $50. Norton said that shows the strength of Grimes’ grassroots support.

Norton wouldn’t say how much money Grimes took in at two recent fundraisers headlined by Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But she said both were “very successful, and we are thankful for her help.”

As for the outside spending on the race, the Kentucky Opportunity, a SuperPAC supporting McConnell and advised by former McConnell aide Scott Jennings, was set to begin a new ad Tuesday evening which touts McConnell’s support of a bill to “save coal jobs” and “stop Obama’s war on our way of life.” Those have been constant campaign themes of McConnell.

It also says McConnell has directed federal funding to Kentucky for university research and other job creation efforts.

But the ad may indicate the McConnell forces are feeling the effect of Grimes’ constant hammering on McConnell for an awkward comment he made to a Beattyville newspaper that job creation in Kentucky was the job of Frankfort and not his.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

 

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