Worried About Money in Politics? The 2020 Election Showed Political Cash Can’t Buy Electoral Victory.
Democrats across the country opened their wallets and poured huge amounts of money into the race for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R–Ky.) seat in an effort to flip control of the chamber.
McConnell’s Democratic challenger, Amy McGrath, raised $88 million during the campaign, according to OpenSecrets, a website run by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit that tracks political fundraising. McConnell, on the other hand, raised only $55 million—though he had millions more in the bank from previous campaigns. Independent super PACs (political action committees), which are campaign organizations that operate independently of political candidates, also spent more heavily in favor of McGrath, according to OpenSecrets’ data.
In the end, McConnell won reelection by nearly 20 points.
Kentucky wasn’t an isolated incident. In several high-profile races in both the House and Senate, candidates with money failed to win critical races. In North Carolina, Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham lost despite raising $46 million to incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis’ $21 million. When you combine that with spending by super PACs and other unaffiliated groups, the North Carolina race cost a bit more than $287 million—making it the most expensive Senate race of the year. In South Carolina, Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison raised $107 million to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s $72 million. In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, raised $42 million in a failed attempt to take the Senate seat of Republican Steve Daines, who raised $27 million.
In every one of those states, the less well-funded incumbent won his
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