The Fix’s best fundraiser of 2012

December 13, 2012

Money isn't everything in politics, but let's face it, it's a major part. Without the necessary funds to have a meaningful advertising presence and hire skilled consultants, even talented candidates can get lost in the shuffle. 


(Gretchen Ertl?Reuters)

Fundraising is also a sign of strength and weakness. Throughout the cycle, we used this space to parse campaign finance reports that mattered, and often, donor enthusiasm (or lack thereof) was a good measure of a candidate's overall trajectory. 

There was one candidate who consistently outshone everyone else by putting up eye-popping numbers that reflected major momentum. Thursday, we award the Fixy -- the coveted political awards that we, well, made up -- for best fundraiser to Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Warren raised a whopping $42 million in the 2012 cycle, making her the most prolific fundraiser not named President Obama or Mitt Romney. She outpaced incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R) by nearly $14 million. Warren's money operation was led by finance director Michael Pratt. 

On the spending side, Warren threw everything she had at defeating Brown; she incurred about $400,000 in debt when all was said and done. Remarkably, Warren spent about $4 million more than Brown, who headed into 2011 with over $7 million in his account. Warren filed paperwork to begin raising money in August of 2011, and steadily made up ground on the Republican. 

The chart below illustrated Warren's torrid pace.  

For perspective, Warren raised only about $5 million less than the combined totals of GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.

That's a lot of dough. 

The Fix posse picked a few other campaigns deserving of honorable mention:

* Obama/Romney: Both candidates cracked the $1 billion mark in what was the most expensive presidential campaign in history. Early in the race, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina dismissed the notion that the president would eclipse the $1 billion mark. Whether or not he was gaming expectations, he was wrong. Observers will continue to look at which side made more efficient use of its money in various capacities, but this much is clear: Both men put up huge overall numbers. 

* Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.): Bachmann raised a hefty $14 million+ for her House reelection campaign and, notably, only about half that for her presidential effort that ended in January after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses. Bachmann, who survived a surprisingly competitive reelection campaign against Democrat Jim Graves by only a point in November, regularly dispatched over-the-top, urgent fundraising pleas to donors.

* Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.): West took in a whopping $19 million+ and spent about $18 million, but it wasn't enough to defeat Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy (D), who spent less than a quarter of what West dished out. This race was a reminder that money isn't everything. Also of note: West had about $1.5 million in the bank at the end of the campaign and hasn't shut the door on a future run for office. 

(Don’t miss our picks for the nastiest campaign of 2012, the biggest upset, the best and worst ads of the cycle, and the best and worst candidates.) 

Aaron Blake contributed to this post.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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Aaron Blake · December 13, 2012