How the Rich Candidates Are Doing

Every election cycle has its self-funders, and 2010 is no different: there are a handful of spectacularly wealthy newcomers to politics running in high-profile races around the country. Self-funders don't always do well, probably for a reason separate from but related to their self funding: they tend to be newcomers to politics. (Modern political purists may also argue that the humbling experience of begging for money makes candidates into better pitch-men and -women, or that getting in tune with partisan donors otherwise tunes the candidate to the ears of the base.)


How will 2010's millionaire and billionaire candidates fare? Here's an update on the handful of most prominent wealthy candidates, including poll numbers and how much they've spent as of June 30, when financial disclosures were last due: their latest financial disclosures:

Meg Whitman, Republican, CA-Gov.: The former eBay CEO defeated another wealthy candidate in primary opponent Steve Poizner and has emerged to face current AG and former Gov. Jerry Brown in November.

  • Spending as of June 30: $80.8 million August 9: $99 million
  • Polling average: trails. Whitman 42.2%; Brown 43.9%

Jeff Greene, Democrat, FL-Sen.: The billionaire Greene, who made his money in real estate investing, entered the Florida Senate race as a surprise candidate on April 30, to the chagrin of national Democrats and the established Democratic frontrunner in this race, Congressman Kendrick Meek. Since then he's fired his campaign strategist, Joe Trippi, but has remained competitive in the primary.

  • Spending as of June 30: $5.8 million
  • Polling average: leads primary. Greene 33.4%; Meek 28.8%; Ferre 5.2%

Carly Fiorina, Republican, CA-Sen.: The former Hewlett-Packard CEO is challenging incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer, and, both Fiorina and Whitman are hoping there's enough room on the ballot for two wealthy female former CEOs in California's top two races. Fiorina differs from Whitman in a big way: she's raising money from donors instead of relying almost exclusively on her personal wealth for the campaign. Poll numbers have looked encouraging, and Fiorina finds herself in a tight race.

  • Spending as of June 30: $9.6 million
  • Polling average: trails. Fiorina 41.6%; Boxer 47.0%

Linda McMahon, Republican, CT-Sen.: Formerly CEO of WWE, McMahon has pledged to spend $50 million in her race. She just defeated former Congressman Rob Simmons and Tea Partier Peter Schiff in her three-way primary on Tuesday, netting less than 50% of the vote despite vastly outspending her competition. Her Democratic opponent, AG Richard Blumenthal, will hope that the source of McMahon's wealth can damage her: throughout the race, McMahon's political opponents have highlighted the more questionable aspects of pro wrestling in attempts to discredit her. Still, McMahon has narrowed her polling deficit significantly through the course of this race, trailing 10% in the latest survey after trailing 32% against Blumenthal in March.

  • Spending as of July 21: $21.3 million
  • Polling average: trails. McMahon 38.9%; Blumenthal 52.1%

This is but a glance at the most high-profile wealthy candidates are faring—a host of wealthy gubernatorial and House candidates in less expensive races are using their own money to run for office--but it's a question we'll keep an eye on as the 2010 elections unfold.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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