Carson Leads in Money Raised, But Not Playing the Long Game
The third-quarter Election 2016 fundraising numbers have been released by the campaigns ahead of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing deadline on Thursday, and the results of the money primary are telling. With the exception of the self-funding Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who raised $3.9 million during the last quarter despite not actively fundraising, Dr. Ben Carson topped his rivals by hauling in more than $20 million.
Carson proves that–at least on the Republican side of the aisle–debates matter. The former child’s neurosurgeon saw a surge of support in the polls and a rush of small-dollar donations following the first GOP debate hosted by Fox News. Team Carson took in more than 600,000 donations from more than 350,000 donors by the end of September, alone. He more than doubled his take from the last quarter and raised more than $12 million only last month, when the media began aggressively attacking him for various comments and positions.
However, raising money is only one side of the story in the money primary–the other being spending money. Carson now has an incrediblly high burn rate fueled by an attempt to sustain his debate momentum, spending $14 million from July to September.
“We will be able to fully fund our most expansive get-out-the-vote program, and our most expansive advertising program and our most expansive social media program in Iowa through the caucuses,” Doug Watts, his spokesman, told the Des Moines Register Thursday.
The truth is somewhere in the middle. Prior to the debate, Carson’s burn rate in July was already a staggering 64% and, although he is now nipping at Trump’s heels in Iowa depending upon which poll you look at, his campaign-spending needs are moving in the wrong direction. Carson had $11.5 million cash on hand in the third quarter, which could have been higher even though it is undoubtedly enough to keep him competitive if he spends it more wisely.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush came in second raising nearly $13.4 million in the latest period, topping his second-quarter haul of $11.4 million. While his campaign is claiming this is evidence of sustaining power, it is important to remember he declared just weeks prior to the filing deadline. In other words, honest observers would expect him to raise far more money this quarter. However, Bush’s burn rate last quarter was at a rather high 27%, though that included start up costs in such a short period.
Still, Bush reported having $10.3 million in the bank at the end of September, which is slightly less than the $11 million Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has on hand. Though Rubio did not post impressive numbers in the third quarter–$6 million in the third quarter, compared to $8 million in the second quarter–he had an impressively low burn rate of just 19% and it is beginning to pay off. Bush and Rubio are vying for the same big money establishment donors, and it appears he is gearing up to take a huge injection from billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, leading Trump to say he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet.
Nevertheless, as PPD previously reported back in March 2014, Bush was hoping to garner the backing of Adelson, who single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich competitive in 2012. That obviously is not going to happen, and mirrors several other battles for big money donors in the Sunshine State, almost all of which Rubio has won.
Then there’s Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who hauled in $12.2 million, slightly less than the $14 million he raised previously and enough for third place. However, roughly 47% of Mr. Cruz’s donations were $200.00 or less in the previous quarter and he continues to boast what is probably the most impressive small donation data bank in the race. At this point, it is Cruz, who repeatedly demonstrates a solid floor of support in the polls, who is setting himself up to be the ultimate conservative “outsider” in the GOP money primary.
Former Hewlitt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who has come down from her post-debate surge in the polls, benefited from those solid performances in the first two debates. Fiorina raised $6.8 million in the third quarter and had $5.8 million on hand, compared with the $1.7 million she took in during the second quarter from April to June. She joined the race officially in May.
Meanwhile, the other Republican candidates are pulling in less money and are in serious danger of becoming the next Scott Walker. Ohio Gov. John Kasich raised $4.4 million, spent $1.71 million and finished the quarter with $2.66 million on hand. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie raised $4 million in the last quarter, but spent nearly $3 million and has roughly $1.4 million on hand.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul raised $2.5 million, which is far less than the $6.9 million raised in the second quarter and had about $2 million cash on hand.