Oh, Swell, Another Self-Financing Multimillionaire

(Gary Cameron/Reuters)

The big theme of today’s Morning Jolt is that Democrats have good reasons to be grinding their teeth over the fact that Kamala Harris is out of the race — and Cory Booker and Julian Castro are on a path to follow her — while billionaires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, two guys whom nobody was clamoring for, are managing to stick around because they’re self-financing and willing to spend a chunk of their fortunes on TV ads.

Georgia Republicans may soon be feeling the same way. Politico reports, “Soon-to-be Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler plans to spend $20 million of her own money on her 2020 Senate campaign in Georgia — a massive sum that could give potential rivals pause about trying to unseat her.” If your sole concern is keeping a GOP senate seat in the red column, this is good news. And for all we know, Loeffler could go on to become one of the most beloved senators in Georgia’s history. But if you’re not completely convinced that the best Republican in the state to be one of its two senators is a financial executive and co-owner of Atlanta’s WNBA team . . . you could be a little disgruntled at the thought that Loeffler’s $20 million commitment may effectively end the primary (and general election!) before it starts. The NRSC is likely smiling; Loeffler’s self-funding allows them to spend limited resources in other states.

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Somebody like Representative Doug Collins could attempt to unseat Loeffler in the primary, but that kind of instant gargantuan spending advantage would make any potential challenger think twice and wonder if it’s worth it.

(Then again, in an era where $125 million was spent in the 2018 Texas Senate race and $118 million was spent in the one in Florida . . . maybe $20 million in the candidate’s own money is just a nice head start.)

Yes, the candidate that spends the most money doesn’t always win. But it helps, and it’s understandably deflating when party primaries turn into, “which retired corporate executive with an eight-figure sum in cash he’s willing to spend on a campaign do you prefer?” I have no illusions; candidates for public office are almost never poor and the average member of Congress or senator is always going to be much wealthier than the average American. But the median net worth of a member of Congress — meaning half is above, half is below — is $511,000, and that’s based on financial disclosure reports that don’t require them to list the estimated value of their houses.

At any point will the electorate say, “okay, that’s enough really wealthy people, let’s get some folks with more modest financial circumstances in there”? Clearly there’s still a small stigma to candidates being fabulously wealthy in some circles; otherwise Joe Biden wouldn’t keep insisting that people call him “Middle Class Joe” when the only person ever recorded calling him that is himself.

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