Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid raised and spent about $2 million in the final three months of the year, increasing the amount he’s raised so far to win re-election to more than $15 million.
The numbers disclosed today show Reid has raised more cash than any politician in Nevada history, but it still might not be enough to woo voters who have soured on his job performance.
“I don’t think senator Reid is going to lose because he doesn’t have enough money,” said Nathan Gonzales of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. “But I think there are some problems that can’t be fixed with more campaign cash.”
Reid’s favorable rating with Nevada voters was just 33 percent compared to 52 percent unfavorable in the most recent statewide survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. The same survey showed Nevadans favored any of three potential Republican challengers — Las Vegas businessman Danny Tarkanian, casino owner and former Nevada GOP chairwoman Sue Lowden, and former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle — to Reid in head-to-head match-ups.
“That is a difficult hole for incumbents to dig out of,” said Gonzales, who currently ranks Reid’s Senate seat vulnerable to Republican takeover.
Reid’s campaign has a different take. They say the prodigious fundraising shows Reid will have the resources to win in November.
“Our campaign is fully operational and ready to ensure Sen. Reid will continue his work creating jobs and getting Nevada’s economy back on track as leader of the Senate,” said Brandon Hall, Reid’s campaign manager.
The campaign opened a new Las Vegas headquarters in December and has already launched a round of television ads to burnish Reid’s image as a public servant.
“These resources allow the campaign to highlight the choice (voters) have between candidates whose rhetoric don’t match reality and Sen. Reid,” Hall said.
In the fourth quarter, Reid reported raising nearly $1.9 million in total contributions and total operating expenditures of $2 million. He ended the year with almost $8.7 million cash-on-hand. Reid’s total contributions raised for the year was $15,009,489.
That’s more than double the approximately $6.3 million Gov. Jim Gibbons raised for his winning campaign in 2006 and more than the $11.1 million that campaign Web site OpenSecrets.org reported Reid raised with his campaign and political action committee for the 2004 election cycle.
“It is an impressive number,” said Jennifer Duffy of the non-partisan Cook Political Report.
Duffy said a more interesting number was the amount of money Reid spent. She said it shows the campaign is already hard at work laying a foundation and spending as much money as it takes in.
“It is a lot of money to spend at this point in the cycle,” she said.
Complete Senate finance reports weren’t available today on the Web site of the Federal Election Commission. But Tarkanian has reported raising $650,329 so far with $257,135 cash on hand. Lowden has said she’s raised about $800,000 so far. Angle reported $582,941 including $368,941 in the fourth quarter and $96,100 cash on hand. Investment banker John Chachas has raised $1.9 million, which includes $1.3 million of his own money and $594,861 in contributions with $1.7 million cash on hand.
University of Nevada, Reno political science professor Eric Herzik said the money advantage gives Reid a huge head start organizing for the fall.
“It may not buy love but it will buy you a lot of on-the-ground organization,” Herzik said.
Herzik cited the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama as an example.
Obama raised unprecedented sums of money and used it to arm volunteers with voter lists, demographic information and every other tool needed to campaign effectively.
For example, Obama volunteers showed up at Herzik’s house in a Republican neighborhood specifically to speak with his son. It showed the volunteers were so well trained they knew not only where to find younger voters but what to say when they found one.
“They turned one of my kids who was a Republican,” Herzik said.
Even though the Republican who emerges to challenge Reid will likely see an infusion of millions of dollars from around the country he or she will still be at a disadvantage, Herzik said.
“Let’s say that starts occurring in July. First off they have to collect it and start spending it,” he said. “It is not a fatal disadvantage but it is a disadvantage in time. And campaigns run on a relatively short timetable.”
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861.