By Ronnie Ellis
Money poured into the campaign coffers of both incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and his likely Democratic opponent this fall, Alison Lundergan Grimes, during the fourth quarter.
Friday afternoon both reported raising more than $2 million during the final quarter with McConnell’s total edging out Grimes by about $100,000. Grimes reported raising $2.1 million in the final three months of the year while McConnell raised $2.2 million.
But McConnell remains far ahead overall because of his earlier start and the advantages of his incumbency. For the entire cycle, McConnell has raised nearly $20 million while Grimes has raised just less than $5 million.
McConnell also has $10.9 million cash on hand to Grimes’ $3.5 million. But McConnell reported having $9.8 million at the end of the third quarter of 2013, meaning he spent a little more than half of what he raised in the last three months of the year.
McConnell has to contend with a primary challenge from the right from Louisville investment banker Matt Bevin, who reported raising $900,000 in the fourth quarter. He raised just more than $200,000 in the third quarter but contributed $600,000 of his own money.
The fourth quarter fundraising data is what the three campaigns announced — their Federal Election Campaign reports aren’t available online yet. Friday was the deadline for submitting those to the FEC. There are also three other Democrats — Burrel Charles Farnsley, Greg Leichty and Todd Becktenwald — and three other Republicans (Shawna Sterling, James Bradley Copas, and Chris Payne) who filed for the office but none has reported raising any money.
Jesse Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager, said McConnell’s numbers for the final quarter should be viewed as more impressive because he suspended fundraising while the government was shut down over the federal budget in October.
“Sen. McConnell, unlike his challengers, made the decision to cancel fundraising efforts during the government shutdown and was still able to bring in over two million dollars this quarter, which further illustrates the enthusiastic support he is gaining every day from people across America who appreciate his conservative leadership and willingness to fight on their behalf,” Benton said. Not to be outdone, Grimes campaign spokeswoman, Charly Norton, said Grimes’ fourth-quarter take surpassed “most all challenger and incumbent campaigns nationwide.”
She also noted that McConnell spent a lot in the fourth quarter, while Grimes “has built a war chest of almost $3.5 million that will allow us to have the resources to win this race.”
But while it may have been a strong showing, Grimes has also spent $1.5 million of the total as she’s built and organized her campaign after getting into the race in July.
The race will probably be the closest watched Senate race in the country next year. McConnell is the Republican Minority Leader in the Senate whose lifelong dream has been to become Majority Leader. That goal seems within reach as Republicans try to take over the Senate, needing to pick up six seats. Typically, the majority party loses seats in an off-year election during the second term of a president of the same party and Democrats have more seats to defend.
But polls also have shown McConnell isn’t popular with Kentucky voters and Democrats see an opportunity to take down a thorn in the side of President Barack Obama and help hold onto to their Senate majority.
That’s made it a target for both parties and both Grimes and McConnell have raised significant amounts of money nationally. Norton said Grimes received contributions from all 120 Kentucky counties and from all 50 states during the final quarter.
McConnell’s campaign reported median contributions of $50 while Norton said Grimes’ median contribution was $25 with 26,000 individuals giving less than $50.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.