The countdown to 2018 has finished and Washington has snapped its head in the direction of another countdown: the mid-term elections in November.
In just eleven months, the balance of power can be easily swayed in Congress, which means this year is setting up to be two things: dramatic and expensive. Very Expensive.
So, grab some popcorn and your calculator because big money is pouring in to district races from all over the country, and it’s set to make history.
In order to flip the Republican-ruled House of Representatives the Democrats only need to grab 24 additional seats from the GOP, and all 435 House seats are up for re-election.
In the Senate, they need two of the 34 up for re-election.
Let's head over to the 18th Congressional District in Pennsylvania for an early look at a bellwether in Trump Country.
A special election for Republican Tom Murphy’s seat in Congress is up for grabs. He sat in that seat for nearly 15 years before resigning -- so it is not surprising that he ran unopposed in the last race.
The Republican Party’s candidate is the very conservative state representative and Trump supporter, Rick Saccone. The Democrat's man of the hour is Connor Lamb, a relatively unknown moderate Democrat. So, the heat is on.
However, the only campaign finance filings currently on hand date back to September 2017. Saccone is reporting around $71,000, and Lamb’s cash is not even listed. Stand by for those amounts to soar in the coming weeks.
Here’s why: Pennsylvania is a critical battleground state that President Trump took in 2016. He ran away with 58.1 percent of the vote in the Republican-leaning 18th district alone.
History tells us, however, that the president’s party almost always loses ground in a midterm, especially if his approval rating is below fifty percent. According to Real Clear Politics, Trump rests at an average of -- ahem -- forty percent.
The Most Expensive Race Ever
We only need to look to Georgia to get a sense of how contentious the midterm elections will be all over the nation, and by "contentious," I also mean "well-funded." Because where one goes, the other follows. The two terms are effectively married.
In the 6th Congressional District, we bore witness to the most expensive House race in the history of this nation. With a $55 million price tag, the Democrat's little gamble in the Republican-heavy 6th district backfired spectacularly in its attempt to turn it blue.
On June 20, 2017, Republican Karen Handel beat the "Great Democratic Hope," Jon Ossoff, in a special election for Tom Price’s seat after he bailed to fill the post of Health and Human Services Secretary.
Just 14 percent of Ossoff's cash came from Georgia, while the lion's share originated in large left-leaning states like California and New York.
Handles, on the other hand, absorbed the majority of her cash from within the state, with heaps coming from committees and super PACs.
In both cases, the majority of the $55 million came from people who could not vote for their candidate.
Though the Dems lost, it is important to remember that the financial outlay was not just aimed at winning the seat, but also to capitalize on a testing ground for ideas, messages, and the how-tos of flipping a district in an era of Trump.
Note: The negative advertising was genuinely breathtaking.
The Race We'd Like to Forget
Speaking of negative advertising, why don't we take a look the great state of Alabama’s Senate Race that just won't quit? We saw a successful flip in the special election race of 2017 that left America feeling like it needed a shower.
Democrat Doug Jones fought it out with Republican good ol' boy Roy Moore. This is a bright red state that Donald Trump took by 28 points just a year earlier. Republicans have owned the governor's office, and fended off Democrats for Senate seats for nearly twenty years in Alabama!
Well, Jones won and obviously it helped the cause to oust the GOP after horrendous accusations of harassment and sexual assault by Roy Moore came to light during the race... but look at the financial effort put forth by both parties to get their guy in!
Jones raised $11.8 million - twice as much as Moore. One of the most significant Democratic super PACs threw in $4.1 million, according to Politico; a Group called Highway 31.
The majority of both candidates’ money came from out of state, but more of Moore’s dollars in this deeply red state came from Alabamans.
Jones' victory puts that Republican Senate majority at just 51 seats. So, for Democrats this was money well spent.
Moore raised about $5 million, and Republicans ran away in droves. His most prominent donor was a champion of Trump policies. American First Action pitched in $1 million and posted a video of a 12-year-old girl interviewing Moore. Terrible timing.
Big Fights; Bigger Money
We need only shift our focus back to the Beltway to get an indication of the riches at play in this year’s campaigns.
The 6th Congressional District of Maryland is shaping up to host one of the most expensive (some would say lucrative) House races.
Last year, Democrat David Trone spent $14 million in his bid for a seat in the 8th Congressional District. He failed, but boy what an effort. The man set a record for the most expensive self-funded House campaign. Who knows how his numbers will add up in 2018?
Meanwhile, Republican Amie Hoeber failed in her last go-round at the 6th District’s seat. In that race alone her husband donated $3.2 million. Can you imagine?
New Hampshire and Nevada are lining up Senate campaigns in a similar theme: big fights and bigger money.
Midterms bring out more partisan voters, which makes this countdown to the upcoming elections more of an advent calendar of sorts. The kind where you open a tiny door each day and find a surprise inside, which is scandal and cash.
If you want to follow along you better fire up a spreadsheet or at the very least keep your calculator close.