In a political campaign, there’s two ways to raise money: convince donors your candidate has a better message, or convince them everyone else thinks your guy or gal is a winner, and they better get on board soon.
The second method is much easier once your campaign starts raising more money than your opponents.
News that wealthy Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner took in far more campaign cash in large contributions this summer than his three primary opponents goes beyond a simple horse-race tally of who’s up and who’s down at this stage of the campaign. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, Rauner’s fundraising prowess can start to take on a life of it’s own, making it that much harder for opponents Bill Brady, Kirk Dillard and Dan Rutherford to keep up.
Rauner reported earlier this month that he raised $1 million for his GOP gubernatorial primary race from July to Sept, much of it in large donations from corporate donors. The haul represents the third straight quarter he reached or neared seven figures in donations. While Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford has said he has $1.2 million in his campaign coffers, he is expected to report $330,000 raised when campaign file on October 15th.
For their part, state senators Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady took in $179,000 and $48,580, respectively, in larger donations during the same period.
Of course, fundraising isn't the only yardstick by which one can measure the success of a campaign more than a year out. There’s name recognition, which Bill Brady has after running for governor in 2010. There’s campaign volunteers and infrastructure, which Rutherford believes he has in abundance. And then there’s a solid base in DuPage and Republican Party connections, which is what Dillard may be banking on.
And, despite being a successful venture capitalist, Rauner’s burning through the cash he’s raising at an alarming rate, having already spent around $2.3 million.
But the fact that Rauner’s racking up the numbers—this early, and from big donors—is likely make everybody else’s job in this race that much harder. It’s going to be difficult for a candidate on the Republican side to start a grassroots groundswell of small-time donors to offset Rauner’s continued dominance in big money contributions. And once perception starts to set in who the front runner is in raising campaign cash, the smart money from all quarters is likely to start following.
Which can make fundraising phone calls for the other candidates in the race all that much harder to pull off.