Two campaign fundraising reports announced on Monday drive home the argument that it literally pays for candidates to stand by their convictions and to build their candidacies around populist or base appeal.
Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), perhaps the top Republican target in the House of Representatives, reported raising more than $660,000 in the second quarter of 2010 -- breaking his record from last quarter. Hailing from a traditionally conservative district, the Virginia Democrat has been routinely listed among the most endangered members in Congress. But instead of moderating his positions to appeal to Republican voters, the congressman has done the opposite, proudly casting a vote in favor of health care reform and cap and trade, as well as embracing rather than backing away from the stimulus.
Last month, Virginia State Senator Robert Hurt won the six-way GOP primary to face Perriello in the general election. And while the political landscape still is largely favorable for him, Perriello does have $1.7 million cash on hand to use for his reelection, out of the nearly $2.3 million he has raised so far.
On the Republican side of the aisle, Senate candidate and Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio, likewise, announced a massive fundraising haul during the last quarter. The Florida Republican took in $4.5 million in the period ending in June, his campaign said. Rubio, of course, has been helped immensely by Gov. Charlie Crist's poor standing and ultimate departure from the GOP, which has had the alternate effect of driving Republican donors his way. But the fundraising success preceded Crist's exodus from the party (Rubio has brought in a total haul of $11 million). Indeed, it was Rubio's purity on conservative issues -- his opposition to the stimulus, chief among them -- that initially drew attention and money to his campaign and made him a viable and then preferred alternative to Crist.
Somewhat ironically, neither Perriello nor Rubio fashion themselves as inherently base-oriented candidates. Each insists that their fundraising prowess is based on populist appeal. "Perriello is an old-school Southern populist," one Democratic operative argued, "not so much Republican or Democrat."
All of which may be true. But it also helps when a candidacy becomes a broader barometer of ideological purity as a viable election strategy. A lot of different organizations (from MoveOn to the Tea Party) are invested in Perriello's and Rubio's success -- and it's not just a financial investment.