When outside groups can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, politicians' own coffers mean less
In the super-PAC era, reading the tea leaves of a candidate's Federal Election Commission filing reveals far less about a campaign's viability than it did just last cycle.
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Thanks to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, outside organizations can pick up a lot of fundraising slack for promising but underfunded campaigns. So-called super PACs and other third-party groups will likely spend $1 billion trying to influence next year's elections, which means no candidate in a truly competitive race will lose because he couldn't raise enough money. Instead, the new political reality means most candidates in contested races will struggle to spend as much on their own races as outside groups will spend for and against them.
Democrats and Republicans are already spinning their third-quarter numbers, released this week. To Democrats, anemic fundraising from Florida Republicans vying for the right to take on Sen. Bill Nelson and Missouri Republicans running against Sen. Claire McCaskill are hopeful signs that potentially vulnerable incumbents are well-positioned. For Republicans, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel's $1.5 million haul--$250,000 more than Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown raised--indicates the GOP put another seat in play. In actuality, the ticky-tack press releases from both sides aim to generate just a single positive headline, a drop in what has become a very large bucket.