FRANKFORT — Rand Paul's Internet "money bombs" to raise funds for his Republican U.S. Senate campaign have lost some of their blast but still are detonating big bucks.
Political observers say Paul's online fund-raising efforts remain productive but predict the race between Paul and Democratic nominee Jack Conway will not hinge on money.
Paul's latest money bomb raised about $258,000 last Thursday and Friday, but fell well short of a $400,000 goal. Paul's biggest haul from a money bomb occurred last August when he raised more than $436,000 in less than 24 hours. The goal was $1 million.
In late June, Paul's campaign took in $172,000 in two days from a money bomb with a goal of $100,000. In late March, a bomb generated $262,000 in one day.
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Despite the dwindling numbers, the coffers of both candidates will likely contain plenty of money, said Danny Briscoe, a Democratic political consultant from Louisville who is not involved in the race.
Briscoe said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will see to it that Paul is adequately funded and Democrats in Washington will make sure Conway has necessary funds.
He predicted that $10 million will be spent on the general election race. In 2008, McConnell and Democratic challenger Bruce Lunsford spent a combined $32 million on the primary and general elections.
"I'd expect Conway to finish up with spending the most but it, no doubt, will be a competitive race," Briscoe said.
Instead of money, the major factors in the race will remain President Barack Obama's unpopularity in the state and Conway's "ability to define Paul as outside the mainstream," said Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report.
Rothenberg rates the race as "toss up — tilts Republican."
On the money front, McConnell and national Democrats already are moving to support their candidates.
McConnell has co-hosted fund-raisers for Paul and sent an e-mail to supporters last week urging them to donate during the money bomb.
"The national media and their liberal allies have thrown everything they have at Dr. Rand Paul," McConnell said. "But the good news is, he's taking their best shot, and still is in the lead as we hit the home stretch."
Meanwhile, Conway is expected to benefit from $1.3 million that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will contribute, NationalJournal.com reported last week.
The publication said Democrats privately acknowledge that Conway is one of the party's best chances to pick up a Senate seat.
The Paul campaign put a positive spin on the latest money bomb's take.
"Dr. Paul has made a great success of tapping into a large base of donors over the past year, and this is just another example of the campaign's fund-raising proficiency and wide base of support," the campaign said in a statement.
Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon, effectively used the fund-raising gimmick to win the Republican nomination last May. He borrowed the strategy from his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who popularized money bombs in his unsuccessful bid for president in 2008.
Briscoe said Paul's bombs are "efficient ways to raise money."
A candidate normally needs three or four fund-raisers to get the kind of money one of his bombs generates, Briscoe said.
Republican Larry Forgy, who lost a bid for governor in 1995 to Democrat Paul Patton, called Paul's money bombs "bonus money."
Forgy said he saw Paul raise $22,000 last week at a private fund-raiser in Somerset, "and I didn't see a lobbyist with corporate money in sight."
Forgy said Paul is raising money from "ordinary folks."
Don't worry about Paul as a fund-raiser, said Forgy. "He'll be competitive, no doubt about that."
At the end of June, Paul reported $319,000 on hand compared with $703,000 for Conway. For the entire election cycle, Paul has raised $3,547,054, compared with $3,710,345 for Conway, who has put at least $500,000 of his own money in the race.