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Columns Tom Baxter

Walker’s fundraising is far behind Warnock’s, but he’s the GOP’s star

(Image via teamherschel.com)

By Tom Baxter

Among the Republican Senate candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump, Herschel Walker has a dubious distinction. Walker had the best second-quarter fundraising total of any candidate in this group, raising $6.2 million.

That was only slightly more than a third of what his Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, raised over the same period, which sums up how bad the last quarter was for Republican Senate candidates across the country. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor who won a squeaker GOP primary in Pennsylvania, raised $1.6 million. His opponent, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, raised $10 million. In Arizona, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Nevada, Democrats also showed a lopsided fundraising advantage.

Dollars aren’t votes, and one quarter doesn’t make a year. However, this big a shift in fundraising strength, at a time when the Democrats are expected to be reeling, deserves a closer look.

Trump’s fundraising on his own behalf has been so intensive you have to wonder if a significant part of his base hasn’t simply tapped out and stopped writing checks to his endorsed candidates. David Perdue, for one, could speak to that. Trump’s own fundraising committees have slowed in recent months, although Trump continues to account for a large share of the Republicans’ fundraising total.

No matter what Trump does or what happens to him this year, these Senate fundraising numbers raise some troubling questions for the Republicans about how they regain control of their own fundraising apparatus to prepare for the future.

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing recently that Democrats have become more a party of white, college-educated liberals, and are losing support among more moderate African-American and Hispanic voters.

That’s a problem, but its flip side can be seen in this latest round of quarterly financial reports. A lot of those white, college-educated liberals write checks. The impact of mass, relatively small-contribution internet campaigns is beginning to be felt in more and more races, like that of Warnock, who raised $17.2 million in the quarter.

Even though the official decision rescinding Roe v. Wade came late in this reporting period, the issue must have had an impact on contributions to Democratic candidates. It’s likely to have more next quarter. The Republicans’ big-picture challenge is sorting out what to do after Trump. The Democrats’ big-picture challenge is sorting out what to do after Roe v. Wade, besides raising money.

Is there any particular reason Walker has raised more money than Dr. Oz or J.D. Vance? You wouldn’t think so based on the disarray in his campaign.

Walker came out of this year’s Republican primary in the strongest position of any of the major Republican candidates, having won his primary outright with Trump’s endorsement, but also a groundswell of enthusiasm of his own making. Since then his campaign has been a series of blunders fueled by the first-time candidate’s lack of candor about several things, including how many children he’s had.

There have been two recent public polls, a Quinnipiac University poll which had Warnock leading Walker by 10 points, and an AARP poll conducted by the firm of Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research which had the race within the margin of error — Warnock 50, Walker 47. It’s hard to believe Warnock has a double-digit lead, no matter how bad things look for Walker at the moment. But that narrow lead in the AARP could be close to where this race is at.

One reason Walker has raised the most money of any Republican is that he’s in the biggest money race. At $17.2 million/$6 million for the quarter, Walker is in only slightly better shape than Republican Ted Budd in North Carolina, who’s at the back end of a $7.4 million/$2.1 million gap in his race with Democrat Cheri Beasley. Even within a single quarter, we don’t usually see one party hold such a commanding lead over the other in fundraising. That’s not the most important thing in an election year, but it’s a fascinating development.

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Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

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