AIR FORCE 2 glided gently onto the Cedar Rapids runway at 5:50
p.m. - just in time for Vice President Dan Quayle, looking
sun-tanned and refreshed, to make a few remarks to waiting cameras
for the local 6 o'clock news.
The next day, Mr. Quayle's airport comments also made the front
page in the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register. But
for Iowa Republicans, the vice president's mission here was more
than news-making. In a single evening, he raised $40,000 for the
United States Senate campaign of Republican Tom Tauke.
Election '90 has shifted into high gear, and from now until
Election Day it is campaign cash that will grease the wheels of the
Republican and Democratic political machines. Big-name fund-raisers
like Quayle and House Speaker Rep. Tom Foley (D) are invaluable
allies for Republican and Democratic candidates. Best of all at
raking in contributions, of course, is President Bush.
As Democratic activist Mark Gearan puts it: "The president's
cachet is cash."
Old-fashioned politicking, like door-to-door canvassing, still
has a place in modern-day campaigns. But in the closing weeks of
autumn, it is money that talks. It buys TV time - the only means
available to sway thousands of voters on a single night.
This year, although not one vote has yet been counted in the
nation's 35 Senate races, finance reports already tell us a lot
about who is likely to win - and who will almost certainly lose.
Example: West Virginia. Democratic incumbent Sen. Jay
Rockefeller, who could easily finance an entire campaign out of his
own pocket, has saved up contributions of $1,649,941 for this fall,
according to the most recent report of the Federal Election
In contrast, his Republican challenger, attorney John Yoder, has
$107. It doesn't take a PhD in political science to see where that
race is headed. Mr. Rockefeller is favored by 30 points.
Then there's New Mexico. Incumbent Republican Sen. Pete Dominici
doesn't seem to have much to worry about either. He has $807,218 in
his kitty. That should easily enough snuff out his Democratic foe,
Tom Benavides, who has just $135 in reserve.
Contests that are financially lopsided can be found in all parts
of the country, from Idaho to Louisiana, and from Virginia to New
Jersey. Alex Gage, a Republican political analyst with Market
Strategies Inc., in Southfield, Mich., says the flow of money serves
as a valuable indicator.
"Candidates who raise a lot of money signal that other aspects of
the campaign are coming into focus," he says. "It is also the
initial barometer that people use to gauge the success of a
Mr. Gage recently analyzed 24 Senate campaigns that took place
during the 1980s in which incumbent senators lost their bids for
reelection. Those races provide some valuable insights, he says.
It is well known that incumbent senators go into a campaign with
large financial advantages. Their office staff, paid by taxpayer
funds, works around the clock to improve the senator's image. …