I was talking politics with my dad the other day, and the topic of donations came up. He, like a lot of other Democrats (perhaps including some of the readers here) tends to give smaller donations to candidates he likes in many states, including his own state of South Dakota, which is redder than a baboon’s ass. My advice to him, as it is to you, was to calculate his political giving budget for the year, divide it by three (the “big races” of Governor, Senator and Representative), and, if possible, send each of them a check right now.
I used the example of Sarah Gideon, Susan Collins’ 2020 challenger, who ended her campaign with almost $12 million in the bank. She’s still giving that money away. I don’t blame anyone who decided to give to Gideon — despite the result of the campaign, Collins was definitely vulnerable, and Gideon ran a good campaign. Individually, the decision to give to Gideon made some sense. Collectively, it was a terrible use of campaign resources.
In the 2020 South Dakota Senate race, Republican Senator Mike Rounds’ Democratic opponent raised a total of $273K. Dusty Johnson, South Dakota’s lone representative, ran unopposed. In North Dakota’s 2020 House race, the Democrat raised $28K. That is not a typo.
Of course, in all of these Dakota races, and in other red, rural states, there’s almost no chance that a Democrat could win. I still think that a donation to these almost-certain-losers is a good strategic investment, for a couple of reasons. First, if challengers have enough money to at least travel and hire a small staff, they’ll force the incumbent to spend some money on their campaign at home, rather than sending it to other Republicans. Second, campaigns are a time when local media will run whatever a Democrat says when they step up to the microphone, just as they run whatever press releases the Republicans office holders crank out during the rest of the year. Finally, putting a local, friendly face on the Democratic party makes Democrats harder to demonize.
There’s a difference between a robustly financed fifty state strategy and doing nothing in any “no win” state. A modest investment in “can’t win” Democrats in small red states is part of a long-term investment in chipping away at Republican hegemony in these states, especially if that investment is from a state resident, and if it happens fairly early in the cycle.