The 2022 midterms are proving to be a difficult landscape for many Democratic candidates. These challenges exist not only in messaging to voters, but also for any candidate trying to raise the money they need to run strong campaigns.
First, many donors are focused solely on expanding the majority in the Senate and protecting as many House incumbents as possible while focusing significantly less on a host of other races. Secondly, many more progressive Democrats are frustrated and disheartened by the Biden administration’s inability to deliver on some of his campaign’s biggest promises. Finally, donors are likely to slow giving as the cycle continues to progress and they adapt to a faltering economy.
Donors are not immune to economic downturns. A volatile stock market leaves many donors glued to CNBC as they watch their portfolios grow and shrink with the daily rise and fall of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Many of those same donors will use that as a reason to cut back their political giving. This isn’t a new phenomenon.
In fact, it’s one that we last saw during the 2010 cycle when many donors dropped a rung. Donors that usually gave $1,000 at a time started giving $500, and those that generally gave $500 started giving $250.
The drop in the average gift will impact how most candidates spend their time. Smaller contributions from major donors will force many candidates to spend more hours on the phones dialing for dollars. So much of campaign fundraising, especially call time, is a game of quantity over quality.
Big donors won’t be the only ones forced to change their giving habits during a down economy. Smaller dollar donors, who now play a significant role in many campaigns, will also change how they give. They’ll likely begin to give even smaller contributions, but also shift their focus to the races most important to them.
For many, that’ll likely include races in their state and a handful of the biggest races in the country.
Still, lagging as the economy might be, we continue to see record fundraising hauls by many of the most competitive campaigns from coast to coast. Beyond those highly targeted races, however, the state of the economy will undoubtedly have an enormous impact on the races trying to break through the noise in ’22.
Nick Daggers is a co-founding partner of the 1833 Group LLC a Chicago-based Democratic fundraising firm. He has worked on races across the country and has been raising money for candidates and causes since 2008.