RALEIGH — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cheri Beasley raised more money through the first half of 2022 than Republican Ted Budd, but in most campaign metrics, the three-term U.S. representative holds the advantage in the closely watched contest.
Through June 30, Beasley raised $16 million for her campaign and Budd has raised $6.5 million. Beasley’s campaign also holds a cash on hand advantage, with $4.8 million to Budd’s $1.8 million.
Beasley’s campaign was bullish about their efforts, with spokeswoman Dory MacMillan crowing about the advantage on Twitter, writing on July 18 “it’s Monday afternoon but its already been a bad week for Ted Budd.”
But the importance of a candidate’s personal fundraising means much less when outside groups account for hundreds of millions campaign spending.
Already this year, the Senate Leadership Fund has reserved $27.6 million in advertising beginning Sept. 6 and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has committed $6.5 million. The NRSC has been running ads hammering Beasley’s judicial record since the May 17 primary.
“This is such a strong year that we need to invest as broadly and deeply as we can,” Steven Law, the Senate Leadership Fund’s president, said in an interview with Politico in April. “In the Senate, majority control is everything. It determines what happens on the floor and what doesn’t happen. It will have an impact on future Supreme Court nominations. I mean, there’s so much at stake.”
Budd quipped in a statement that “With her huge cash advantage, maybe Cheri Beasley can afford enough gas to finally visit voters in all 100 counties in North Carolina instead of ignoring them like she did the during her three previous statewide campaigns.”
Senate Democrats’ preferred super PAC, Senate Majority Fund, placed a modest buy for Beasley after leaving her off their initial advertising commitments.
History shows that outside groups’ efforts can swamp those by the campaigns themselves.
In 2020, Bloomberg reported that the contest between Republican Sen. Thom Tillis and Democrat Cal Cunningham was “the most expensive congressional contest in a record-shattering year,” with more than $271 million spent in the race. The media outlet also noted that candidate spending accounted for less than a quarter of that total.
Cunningham reported $52 million in contributions in the 2020 race, doubling that of Tillis, who raised $26 million. Tillis went on to win that race.
In 2016, Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and Democrat Deborah Ross were nearly even, with Burr raising $12.9 million and Ross raising $14 million. Burr, who said that year was his last campaign, prevailed by a comfortable six-point margin.
Budd also faced a competitive race in his first Congressional reelection against Democrat Kathy Manning, who would go on to win the redrawn 6th Congressional District seat in 2020.
A CNN analysis of Senate races doesn’t consider the Tar Heel State’s seat a top contender to flip, ranking it the seventh of 10 competitive races in the ’22 cycle behind Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.
“Republican Rep. Ted Budd enters the general election with a built-in advantage in the race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Richard Burr given that Trump twice carried the state,” the story says.
The RealClearPolitics polling average also shows Budd ahead of Beasley. As of July 18, Budd led by a nearly four-point margin in the five polls in the race since May. The most recent poll in race, conduct-d by the Trafalgar Group, showed Budd with a 48% to 45% lead.
Last Friday, Budd received a boost from former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who formally endorsed Budd.
“North Carolinians are sick of out-of-control spending, ris- ing crime, and government that wants to control them. That’s why I’m supporting Ted Budd. He’s a pro-freedom, pro-law enforcement, pro-parent, small business owner who understands the best government is one that gets out of the way,” said Haley.
Nationally, Democrats have outraised Republicans in key Senate races by large margins but often falling short of winning.
In 2020, longtime Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky saw their challengers raise unprecedented amounts of money from national donors, but those challengers both lost by double-digit margins.
Even in 2022, the trend has continued — but needing a net gain of just one seat to win the majority, Republicans feel confident a fundraising deficit won’t stop them from winning control of the Senate. Holding the retiring Burr’s seat appears to be a higher priority for Republicans than flipping is for Democrats, who have vulnerable incumbents in states that may favor the GOP this year.