For the second time since entering the Kentucky Senate race, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’ fundraising haul has outpaced Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell.
In the first three months of the year, Grimes raised $2.7 million compared to the $2.4 million McConnell generated for the quarter.
The money advantage still belongs to McConnell, who has raised $22 million overall in a duel campaign against Grimes and GOP primary challenger Matt Bevin.
Bevin announced Monday his campaign raised $1.1 million during the same period.
McConnell still holds the financial lead over Grimes, but the senator’s re-election campaign has been burning through campaign cash at rapid rate, spending $500,000 more than it brought in during the first quarter.
Grimes campaign manager Jonathan Hurst says the dwindling money advantage for McConnell is indicative of his low approval ratings in the state.
“The more they spend the more Kentuckians remember why they don’t like Mitch McConnell,” he said. “Their campaign has spent $12 million. The outside groups have spent millions and millions of dollars, as have the special interest groups. The more Washington spends the more Kentuckians turn away.”
In the nine months since Grimes announced her candidacy, she has cut the GOP leader’s cash on hand advantage in half. McConnell has just over $10 million in the bank compared to the almost $5 million war chest Grimes has accrued.
Republicans did little to downplay the heft of Grimes’ haul. They instead attacked her for holding fundraisers with Hollywood donors, top Democrats such as former President Bill Clinton and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former Obama chief of staff.
“The very same ultra rich liberal elite who bankrolled Barack Obama into the White House are pulling out all the stops for Alison Lundergan Grimes,” said McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore. “Kentuckians know darn well her entire campaign is funded by those who seek to destroy Kentucky values and our way of life and the only way they can accomplish that is by getting rid of the man responsible for stopping them, Mitch McConnell.”
Grimes campaign officials counter by spotlighting how 45,000 contributors come from all 50 states and 120 counties in Kentucky gave to their cause. And most are grassroots supporters, says Hurst, noting the a median contribution of $25 for Grimes compared to $100 average donation for McConnell’s campaign.
Polling shows McConnell and Grimes locked in a tight slugfest, usually within the margin of error. But Grimes and her team appear confident that the predicted deluge of cash from super PACs and other GOP-affiliated groups won’t impact their political narrative in Kentucky.
“Spending all that money has actually made Sen. McConnell more unpopular,” says Hurst. “That has to be concerning to his staff. They’re spending money at a 120 percent burn rate while we have the resources to talk about the ideas and issues we’ve been talking about since this campaign started.”
“The one advantage Sen. McConnell has always talked about is his money advantage. He’s always talked about how they were able to yield his influence. And I think he’s seeing the rusty machine fall apart.”