Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and Republican Mitch McConnell shattered Kentucky fundraising records in the second quarter, leaving both campaigns with millions to spend during a critical stretch of the state's U.S. Senate race.
Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, outpaced McConnell and other Democratic Senate candidates from around the country, setting a new single-quarter record by raising more than $4 million. She eclipsed McConnell's previous record of $2.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2008 by more than $1 million.
McConnell, the U.S. Senate minority leader, posted $3.1 million for the second quarter. That brings his total for the election cycle to more than $25 million, crushing his own record of $20 million raised for his 2008 re-election bid.
Grimes has raised a total of $11.3 million since entering the race more than a year ago.
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While the broken records reflect the continued national interest in who represents the Bluegrass State in the Senate, the number most important with just more than 100 days left until Election Day is how much cash each candidate has to spend at a time when more voters begin to pay attention.
In that area, McConnell continues to enjoy a significant advantage, with $9.8 million in the bank compared with Grimes' $6.2 million.
"Sen. McConnell has broken a Kentucky fundraising record and is well positioned to take a substantial cash advantage and a lead in the polls into this November's election," said Allison Moore, McConnell's campaign spokeswoman. (An average of recent public polling calculated by Real Clear Politics gives McConnell a 1.5 point advantage over Grimes, though the last four public polls have been split on who leads the race.)
The Grimes camp said Tuesday, the deadline for reporting second quarter fundraising numbers to the Federal Election Commission, that its fundraising strength was derived from grassroots donors, noting that its median contribution is $25 and that more than 100,000 donations were for less than $50.
"Kentuckians are coming together to invest in our campaign because they recognize that Alison Lundergan Grimes will bring a new generation of leadership to the U.S. Senate," said Jonathan Hurst, Grimes' campaign manager. "As Mitch McConnell turns to his Washington special interest allies to bankroll his campaign, our grassroots campaign is driven by our supporters in all of Kentucky's 120 counties."
But McConnell's camp questioned how the Democrat had managed to already spend $5 million without a serious primary threat.
"At this stage in the election it's not what you raise, it's what you have left in the bank to spend," said Josh Holmes, McConnell's senior adviser. "Despite not having a primary election, Alison Lundergan Grimes somehow spent $5 million, and her bank account is $3.6 million thinner than Sen. McConnell's is with only four months to go."
Democrats, however, were thrilled that Grimes had shrunk McConnell's cash advantage by more than $1 million in the last three months, arguing that McConnell's approval and re-election poll numbers have not moved despite spending more than $15 million.
"Not only does Alison have extraordinary grassroots support, but these latest numbers again show she'll have all the resources — and enthusiasm — she needs to win in November," said Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth.
McConnell allies, pointing to the more than $28 million Republican Sharon Angle raised against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the 2012 Nevada U.S. Senate race, questioned whether Grimes was having the kind of fundraising success she should given McConnell's high profile as a Republican leader and foil to President Barack Obama.
Billy Piper, a former top aide and longtime ally of McConnell's, joked that McConnell had really raised $7 million during the second quarter, giving liberal disdain for the senator credit for Grimes' record-breaking haul.
"People are either excited about Mitch McConnell becoming the majority leader of the Senate, or they want to keep him out because he's been the chief thorn in the side of the Obama administration," Piper said. "I do not think there has been a single check written in this cycle because anybody believes in Alison Grimes, because nobody knows her."
Democrats, ebullient over Grimes' record-breaking quarter, were bullish that Grimes would achieve cash parity with McConnell by the end of the third quarter.
"It's clearly not a problem at all," Mike Ward, a former Democratic Congressman and Grimes ally, said. "If she can out-raise the minority leader of the U.S. Senate who is also, up to now, the most successful political fundraiser in Kentucky, she'll make that up easily by Sept. 30."