The establishment candidates substantially outraised the insurgents, by an average of $4.3 million to $1.2 million based on the last Federal Election Commission reports that the candidates filed in advance of the primary. (The difference in median fund-raising totals, which reduces the influence of outliers, is just as substantial: about $3 million for the establishment candidates versus about $400,000 for the insurgents.)
And yet, the insurgent candidates won 11 of 23 races, or nearly half the contests. Joe Miller of Alaska did so in 2010 despite being at nearly a 20-to-1 fund-raising disadvantage against the incumbent Lisa Murkowski. Christine O’Donnell of Delaware defeated Representative Mike Castle that year despite having raised about $260,000 to Mr. Castle’s $3.2 million.There is only a modest correlation between fundraising and success. And risk is that the venture could backfire by generating grassroots sympathy and attention for Tea Party candidates. But it could still help:
Where might Mr. Rove’s efforts be more likely to achieve their desired goals? One case would be in multiple-candidate primaries where there are two or more establishment-backed candidates running against one insurgent. This eventuality has come up quite frequently in recent years, such as in the Nevada primary in 2010 and the Missouri primary last year, when the insurgent candidate was able to win with 40 percent or less of the vote. By directing money to one of the establishment candidates at the expense of the other, Mr. Rove’s group could force the insurgent candidate to win an actual or near-majority of vote rather than a mere plurality.
The money raised by Mr. Rove’s group might also be more likely to help candidates if it is directed toward functions other than advertising which have a lower public profile, although coordination rules related to super PACs can limit such efforts.