Biden Indecision, Trump Vibes, & McConnell’s Money

Biden's seeming equivocation on ’24 is rankling donors. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP
Tara Palmeri
September 22, 2022

The national political storyline of the summer has been, to state the obvious, that the Democrats are making a surprising comeback in the midterms while Republicans have been woefully underperforming expectations with terrible candidates. As we round the final bend, I’ve taken a peak at the state of play in the spending wars through a new data program called 527Tracker, created by G.O.P. strategist and lobbyist Stephen Aaron of Perspective Strategies, to track independent expenditures down the stretch. 

The data, not surprisingly, largely aligns with what Jeff Roe told me last week: Democrats tend to spend money earlier in the cycle while Republicans, at least in the McConnell era, typically wait until closer to election day, when they think voters are actually paying attention. Democrats tend to make greater use of mail-in ballots, whereas Republicans tend to be sticklers for in-person voting. Another recent development, of course, is the phenomenon of Democratic groups quietly pumping up “ultra MAGA” candidates in G.O.P. primaries, in the hopes of running against more extreme, easier-to-beat candidates in the fall.

But I’ve heard that Democrats are at least open to rethinking some of these strategies, as they face the prospect of a last-minute deluge of Republican political spending that is threatening to overwhelm their early-forged coalitions. Indeed, it is clear from 527Tracker that Republicans have been significantly outspending Democrats post-Labor Day. According to the numbers as of Thursday afternoon, since the first week of September, G.O.P.-aligned groups have spent $85 million against Democratic candidates in the Senate races, as compared to the $25 million that Democratic-aligned groups have spent against Republicans. (The money battle, of course, is ever-changing: On Thursday night, it was reported that Chuck Schumer’s Senate Majority PAC and affiliated PACs are unleashing another $8 million, divided across five states.)