Guest post from Van Wilder.
In just over two quarters of active fundraising, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has established himself nationally as a leading challenger among 2012 US Senate candidates. When numbers for the 2nd quarter of 2011 were made public, sitting Senator Sherrod Brown had raised $1.5 million, which is hardly lackluster on its own. However, the likely Republican nominee crushed that showing with his own $2.3 million haul. Plenty of candidates in the past have proven to be of the “flash in the pan” variety, though, so numbers for Mandel’s second quarter in the race have been highly anticipated among national prognosticators.
While the full reports are not yet available, both campaigns have released preliminary numbers. Josh Mandel comes out on top yet again, bringing in another $1.5 million in the 3rd quarter. Incumbent Sherrod Brown only brought in $1.25 million, and has a burn rate almost four times that of Mandel’s campaign operation. As noted by several national outlets, the initial report from the Mandel camp did not include a cash on hand figure, but local outlets like the Columbus Dispatch have reported that this number is likely $3.25 million as of the filing deadline.
The kicker here is that an incumbent US Senator with a first-rate challenger in a battleground state like Ohio is only expected to file with $4.2 million in the bank. When Mandel spokesman Joe Aquilino says that their effort has erased 75% of the cash advantage held by Brown, not only is he correct, but Senator Brown’s fundraising operatives should be more than disappointed in themselves. At this stage, aside from number of contributors and average contribution amount, the most important numbers far and away are cash on hand and burn rate. The fact that Mandel has caught up so quickly has a lot to do with why many nationally see Ohio as one of the GOP’s best opportunities to pick up a Senate seat. This will be a tight race, but with Mandel displaying a penchant for filling his campaign coffers so effectively, Democrats have to be worried.
There are a couple of other important takeaways here as well. Ohio’s Senate race is going to be as expensive as ever, which means Democrats will be forced to keep vital resources deployed here rather than shifting to defend other vulnerable incumbents. With another quarter of similar results, the Brown camp should expect to see another significant reduction in their cash lead. An even-money race will mean that Josh Mandel can afford to get his message out. Sherrod Brown, who has been rated the most liberal Senator, has a record that simply does not fit the voters he represents, and those voters will get to learn all about why Mandel is the better alternative.
Also, with no early numbers released by former state Senator Kevin Coughlin for the 3rd quarter, it is yet another sign that there is not a competitive GOP primary that would force Mandel to burn a lot of cash early in 2011. Team Coughlin brought in just $54,449 in the 2nd quarter, and had just over $26,000 on hand at that stage.
All of this adds up to equal one very important reality. If the main attack line that the Ohio Democrat Party can trump up against Josh Mandel is that he has yet to file a personal finance disclosure, which Mandel readily admits is late because he is awaiting clarification on how to disclose his wife’s assets, they are in for a long campaign.