A new dawn is breaking in campaign spending across the country and the rising sun will scorch both President Obama and liberals running for Congress in Colorado. News broke today from Politico that billionaire free market activists Charles and David Koch plan on raising $200 million to spend on the 2012 elections. That comes after American Crossroads has doubled its original budget of $120 million to a whopping $240 million. That nearly half billion dollars in conservative group spending has the ability to drown Obama's re-election prospects and the down-ticket Democrats along with it.
The massive fundraising operation being set up on the right will dwarf the dollars raised by candidates themselves, a prospect that has been the norm in Colorado since Democrats pioneered the strategy for state legislative races in 2004. The tactics used to deliver Democrats to the State Legislature will now come back to haunt Democrats seeking a promotion to Congress.
Take, for example, what is likely to be the most competitive down-ticket race of 2012 in Colorado: the 3rd Congressional district. One of the two Democrat challengers, Sal "Piss Boy" Pace, has raised $265,000 for his campaign so far. While it's on the low end of fundraising for challengers in competitive districts, it's also a sizeable haul for an off year. But it won't matter.
American Crossroads, American Action Network, Americans for Prosperity — all of these groups could drop $265,000 worth of TV ads into the 3rd district right now and not bat an eye. Much as $100,000 TV ads for a state Senate seat was pocket change for the liberal behemoth CODA in past years, the right's outside group answer will not lack for funds to drop into competitive races.
Sure, candidate fundraising numbers will still matter. Political reporters will use the campaign cash hauls to hypothesize about underlying support for candidates, political momentum and to figure out what insiders see as viable races, but in the scheme of the actual election, they will matter little.
In Pace's case, he had better drastically outraise Tipton if he hopes to have a prayer. The cycle will be generically rotten for Democrats, a problem that is compounded by the fact that no one knows who the heck Pace is in the 3rd CD. So while raising roughly 165k last quarter sounds good, the fact of the matter is that he will need roughly 20 times that in order to win.
“It’s pretty clear that outside groups are going to play,” said Pace, pointing out that GOP-aligned groups spent heavily and played a key role in ousting former Democratic Rep. John Salazar from the seat last year. “We have to be cognizant that we’re not just running against the incumbent, [GOP Rep.] Scott Tipton. We’re going to be running against independent groups.”
Pace has also benefited mightily from this outside spending, with Nancy Pelosi's Super PAC running attack ads against Congressman Tipton already this year. Unfortunately for Pace, Pelosi's Super PAC ads were full of lies and were pulled from the airwaves by a number of radio stations. Also unfortunate for Pace is liberal groups don't seem to have nearly the financial firepower lined up, with many groups putting up puny numbers so far.
Pace may brag that he is readying himself for the assault, but his fundraising haul doesn't show it. In the 2010 election over $3.5 million was spent by outside groups on 7th CD matchup between Ryan Frazier and Ed Perlmutter. With TV time likely to sky rocket in cost, as the Presidential campaigns are all but guaranteed to blanket the airwaves, driving up costs, Pace's piddling pile of campaign cash won't cut it.
As Coloradans witnessed in the over-the-top attacks against Republican legislative candidates in past years, like accusing breast cancer survivor Laura Bradford of loving cancer, outside group ads pull no punches. They hit hard and don't have to have a candidate stand up and defend them. Undoubtedly, the targets of these ads will call on their opponents to denounce them, but as the legislative majority Democrats possessed in January 2005 attests, complaining has little impact.
Remember Obama's incessant complaints about outside group spending all through 2010? That didn't seem to faze the 63 GOP Congressional challengers who won in a historic landslide.
For Pace, that is a serious concern. With his illustrious and lengthy criminal record, you can only imagine the types of ads that can be dropped on the airwaves. Remember, his criminal record includes a felony, two arrests for public urination and a bench warrant for his arrest.
It has to make you wonder if the powers that be in the Democrat Party have their doubts about Pace. Why would the #2 Democrat in the US House, Steny Hoyer, name drop Pace's primary opponent, Dr. Perry Haney, during a meeting with The Denver Post editorial board? While Haney has his own problems with his penchant for "excessive use of massage" (PDF) in his medical practice, that's nothing compared to a history of exposing yourself in public and then ditching your court date.
Outside conservative groups look ready to fight hard and play rough. Democrats will complain, but voters in Colorado won't forget who begat this tactic of outside attacks. The outside group attacks have worked in every cycle since 2004 in Colorado. The question is: are liberals ready for the second scoop of their own medicine?
(Pace Photo credit: Peoples Press Collective)