It's only a week until Wisconsin Democrats decide who will be the challenger in the gubernatorial recall that's grabbed the national spotlight. But while the polling shows a tight race between Governor Scott Walker and the two leading Democratic candidates, the numbers are out and the war for dollars is already won. Walker's a national favorite for conservative donors.
Because of the competitive Republican presidential primary and the likely to be close general election, Walker has managed to raise $14.2 million from donors across the country. Thanks to a loophole in state election law, between the time recall activists started collecting signatures and when a judge finally ruled there needed to be an election, Walker was able to ignore the state's $10,000 donation cap. That allowed him to collect a bunch of six-figure donations, including two over $500,000. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has an excellent piece laying out the fundraising landscape, explaining that Walker managed to raise that astounding sum in only four months—between January 1 and April 23. To put that in perspective, the Journal-Sentinel notes that presidential candidate Newt Gingrich only raised $10 million between January and March and Rick Santorum raised $18 million.
The Walker campaign largesse, two-thirds of which comes from out of state contributors, dwarfs the competition. The two lead Democratic candidates, Tom Barrett and Kathleen Falk, each have less than a million, with Falk slightly leading Barrett. Falk also has an outside group, Wisconsin for Falk, that's raised $4.5 million, about a third of which comes from out of state.
Walker has obviously captured some of the wind among conservative activists. As I noted last week, Tea Party groups are extremely focused on Wisconsin, seeing it as a key step in the presidential race. Walker's even brought together heavy hitters from different conservative camps: Sheldon Adelson, Gingrich's backer, and Bob Perry, a long-time supporter of Texas Governor Rick Perry (no relation).
But the shocking amounts don't seem to have given Walker the lead you might expect. After spending $11 million on advertising, the governor is still facing tough competition. While he's ahead in the polls, the governor hardly has the election in the bag.
It may turn out money can't buy you everything.