With their new "Contract on America" campaign, Democrats are hoping to make the Republican Party synonymous with the generally far-right Tea Party movement. Though this effort is meant to make the Republican Party appear more extreme and less attractive to voters, fundraising numbers show that Tea-Party-backed Senate candidates have experienced plenty of support in their campaigns. As a result, several are posing real threats to more moderate, "establishment" Republicans.
One of the top Tea-Party-backed fundraisers, Florida Republican Marco Rubio, illustrated this split in the Republican Party by pushing his Republican opponent into changing parties. Rubio's strong showing in the polls in Florida caused the state's moderate Republican Gov. Charlie Crist to decide to run in the Senate race as an independent. Rubio has out-fundraised all other Tea Party candidates across the country, having taken in $11.6 million total this election cycle.
Also notable among Tea Party-backed fundraisers is Pennsylvania's Pat Toomey, who has raised $10.3 million in his bid to take the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Arlen Specter, who was defeated in May's Democratic primary. Toomey's $10.3 million is nearly double the $5.5 million taken in by his Democratic opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak. [See where Sestak's campaign cash comes from.]
Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul, the son of Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul, has used the $3.5 million he has taken in this election cycle to mount a strong campaign. Paul won the Republican nomination after Sen. Jim Bunning's announcement that he would retire, a decision Bunning made in part because of his own difficulties raising funds for the campaign. Paul has faced no such problems. In fact, his campaign is known for its online fundraisers called "money bombs," in which it sometimes takes in hundreds of thousands of dollars in a 24-hour period. [See where Ron Paul's campaign cash comes from.]
Also among top Tea Party fundraisers in Senate races are several candidates who are taking on even more well-established Republicans. Arizona's J.D. Hayworth, for example, has raised $2.4 million in hopes of defeating longtime Republican senator and 2008 presidential candidate John McCain, despite being far behind in the polls. Further down the list is Utah Tea Party favorite Mike Lee, who defeated incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Bennett in that state's Republican primary earlier this year. Lee may face a tough general election, however, having only $83,000 on hand of the $962,400 he has raised. Colorado candidate Ken Buck, who has raised over $1 million, may also have a difficult road ahead now that he has won his primary. Buck was caught on tape earlier this month referring to so-called "birthers" in the Tea Party as dumb--a gaffe that may cost him his Tea Party support. [See where McCain's campaign cash comes from.]
Below are ten of the top fundraisers among non-incumbent Tea Party-affiliated candidates in this year's Senate races, with their fundraising totals as of June 30.
|Candidate Name||State||Challenger/Open||Net Receipts|
Two Tea Party-affiliated incumbent Republicans have also put up big fundraising numbers. Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter has taken in nearly $10.6 million this election cycle, and South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has taken in $6.6 million. These senators, both of whom are ahead of their opponents in recent polls, are spending to help their fellow Tea Partiers pull ahead as well. Vitter's leadership PAC has given $10,000 to DeMint, and DeMint's leadership PAC has given $5,000 to Mike Lee and $10,000 to Marco Rubio. [See where Vitter's campaign cash comes from.]
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