But that fantasy is now a reality for Democrat Jaime Harrison and his team after reporting a staggering $ 57 million call for funds on Sunday for the third quarter. The sum shook not only the donation records for a race in the Senate in South Carolina, but for every race in the Senate everywhere – and thus surpasses the previous record of 38.1 million US dollars, which the Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke in 2018 had set up.
In short: yes, he can.
“100%,” said Wesley Donehue, a Republican adviser from South Carolina. “You can always spend more money.”
And in an election year when Democrats are on high alert over efforts to suppress voters, some campaign money could be used for legal fees and staff for potential legal challenges before or after the election.
“We’re so humble and inspired by their support for Jaime’s campaign and we’re immediately investing every dollar donated into our unparalleled digital organizing program, historic investments in African American communications and outreach, and funding in seven media markets,” said Harrison’s campaign manager, Zack Carroll. “Mitch McConnell and his allies spend tens of millions here in South Carolina, and every dollar is crucial in Jaime’s efforts to restore hope to the South Carolina nationwide.”
It’s not just Harrison either – Democratic Senate candidates across the country have released massive fundraising to preview a spending blitz in the coming weeks. In Iowa, Theresa Greenfield said her campaign raised nearly $ 29 million for the third quarter. In North Carolina, Cal Cunningham said he raised more than $ 28 million.
Harrison’s campaign has not yet confirmed that their cash balance is on the way to the final leg, which, given the aggressive spending of his campaign to date, could be well below his donation rate of $ 57 million.
That aggressive approach is by design, however, said a Democratic strategist who works on Senate races to ensure Democratic campaigns don’t leave money on the table as fundraising picks up too late, as has been the case in previous campaign cycles. In 2018, for example, the then Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota ended her lost re-election offer with a whopping $ 6.8 million in the bank.
“This time they planned it,” said the strategist. “You are able to do these high-end programs that everyone has always wanted to do, to speak to every possible voter.”
“This type of money allows Harrison to spend freely in the Charlotte market, which is home to many suburban swing voters, but which is prohibitively expensive for some campaigns,” said Wexler. “You can run a Cadillac mail campaign to sporadically reach older voters and saturate digital and niche media to persuade and motivate younger voters. You don’t have to worry about the (National Republican Senatorial Committee) or a Super-PAC drop an atomic bomb because they know they can do it. “
Republican groups recently rushed to Graham’s rescue in South Carolina. The GOP-backed Senate Leadership Fund earlier this month announced a $ 10 million investment in the state that would bring the parties closer to parity on advertising spending. But democratic groups have also been interested in the opportunity to pick them up unexpectedly. The Senatorial Democratic Campaigns Committee confirmed last month it would be spending seven-digit amounts on the race, and the Democratic group’s Senate Majority PAC launched its own $ 6.5 million ad buy-in from the state.
It is important, however, that Harrison raised as much money himself because candidates receive cheaper advertising costs than outside groups.
According to Advertising Analytics, a media tracking company, its campaign has already captured the airwaves at an unprecedented level, recently spending more than $ 7 million a week on television advertising alone. In a week in late September, Harrison’s television commercial hit $ 7.8 million – a record for a Senate candidate.
In addition to local advertising in South Carolina, these purchases included targeted national advertising, for example on the ACC network during the recent meeting between the University of Virginia and the No. 1 Clemson Tigers.
While ad slots are unlikely to be at full capacity for the cycle, there is likely to be fierce competition now for the best programming. But a campaign like Harrison’s with plenty of money could certainly have booked ads early to avoid a crisis as election day approaches.
Currently, Donehue estimates that the average South Carolina national sees around 200 Harrison campaign ads in a week. And only on television – not to mention the billboards, emails, digital ads, and public relations that are also inundating voters in Palmetto State.
“You can’t play Angry Birds on your phone without putting through a Jaime Harrison ad,” said Walter Whetsell, a Republican strategist from South Carolina.
During a debate last week between Harrison and Graham, the incumbent Republican attempted to convert Harrison’s conspicuous spending to negative, suggesting that this reflected national interest in the race that went beyond concerns of local voters.
“Where the hell is all this money coming from? What about South Carolina that pulled nearly a hundred million dollars into Mr. Harrison’s coffers?” Graham said. “They hate me. It’s not about Mr. Harrison, it’s about liberals who hate my courage for standing up for Kavanaugh (Supreme Court Justice) when they tried to destroy his life. It’s about that I’m helping Donald Trump. “
But Harrison’s dominant fundraising will likely provide a cushion to counter Graham’s well-deserved media during the hearings – with more spending and more advertising, adding to an already unprecedented landscape in South Carolina.
“This state,” said Donehue, “has never seen anything like it.”
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Political Advisor Wesley Donehue’s last name.