Sharron Angle raises $14 million. Should we be impressed?

The $14 million that Sharron Angle, the 'tea party' backed Senate candidate from Nevada, raised last quarter is big, but some of that may have been used up in costly fundraising.

Cathleen Allison/AP
Senate Republican candidate Sharron Angle speaks at a political rally in Carson City, Nev., on Monday.

Nevada GOP Senate hopeful Sharron Angle raised $14 million in the third quarter of this year for her election slugfest with Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid. Is that a lot?

The short answer is, yes. The slightly longer answer is yes, yes, that is a stupendous gusher of cash for an individual Senate candidate. It’s up there with the biggest such hauls ever in a short period of time. Sen. Scott Brown (R) of Massachusetts raised about that much prior to his own special election victory last January. Now ex-Rep. Rick Lazio (R) raised $22 million in the third quarter of his race against Hillary Clinton for a New York Senate seat in 2000. Those are the comparisons that come to mind.

“Sharron Angle produced one of the most successful single quarters of fundraising in the nation’s history for a US Senate candidate,” said Jarrod Agen, a spokesman for Ms. Angle.

But there is a “but” here. The campaign released the $14 million figure Tuesday, but we don’t yet know how much it cost Angle to raise that money. Her net cash on hand might be lower if her fundraising costs were high. And prior to the third quarter, Angle relied heavily on an expensive direct-mail effort to land individual donors. (Ninety-seven percent of her second quarter cash came from single donors, which is a very high percentage.)

Still, there is likely to be a tidy sum left over after expenses are deducted, so you know Harry Reid is not happy at this point. Prior to this news, he enjoyed a healthy financial edge over the "tea party"-backed Angle. At the end of the second quarter, he had $8.9 million cash on hand, as opposed to $1.7 million for Angle.

Reid has not yet released his own third quarter cash figures. He has said in the past that he intends to raise a total of $25 million for the election.

Where did Angle’s money come from? Again, we’ll see a lot more about that when the official Federal Election Commission finance reports come out. But we’re guessing that she has tapped into sources of money that are funding other Senate candidates that are tea party favorites.

The watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics has done an interesting analysis of tea party groups and Senate fundraising. This analysis found that tea party-related candidates received a much larger slice of their money from conservative Republican political action committees than did GOP candidates with greater ties to the party establishment.

Does this mean Angle should now be the favorite in the Nevada Senate race? After all, some recent polls have shown her with a slight lead over her Democratic rival.

Well, as we said, Harry Reid is probably not happy about this. But money does not buy happiness, allegedly, and it does not guarantee political victory. The aforementioned Rick Lazio spent over $40 million, and lost. That’s a record for spending in Senate defeat.

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