Gov. Pawlenty has twice as much money in the bank as his closest political rival, DFLer Mike Hatch. But with $1 million on hand, Hatch is well ahead of the other candidates.
Hatch and Pawlenty have raised a total of $4 million. That money will be spent on everything from lawn signs to campaign staff to get-out-the-vote efforts. It will also be used for campaign ads, like the one Pawlenty started running on Monday.
Even though Pawlenty has a substantial lead in fundraising, he still faces a difficult decision. He has until Friday to decide if he'll take a state subsidy of $473,000, in exchange for limiting his campaign spending.
Pawlenty's campaign manager, Michael Krueger, says the governor and his team will consider how much money Hatch and other DFL-leaning interest groups have to spend.
"Primarily we look for how much are those outside, special interest groups planning to spend, and how much money do they have to try and beat us. And if we need to do what we need to do to match that, then we'll do it," says Krueger.
If Pawlenty breaks the spending limit of $2.4 million, it also means more money for his political opponents. The candidates who win the DFL and Independence Party primaries would share Pawlenty's portion of the public subsidy and could ignore the spending cap as well.
Hatch's campaign manager Jon Youngdahl says at this point, Hatch plans to adhere to the spending limit. He says Hatch's campaign is pleased with its fundraising totals.
"We knew all along that the governor would be able to out fundraise us on that front," says Youndahl. "This has never been about who's going to raise the most amount of money. This campaign is going to get down to whose message and ideas resonate with the public."
Hatch's strategy was to run a lean campaign until September, so he'd have more money to spend on TV ads and other ways to get out the vote.
Two DFL-leaning interest groups will also help Hatch. The Alliance for a Better Minnesota and Minnesotans for Change are backed by Native American tribes, unions and wealthy DFL donors. Their campaign finance reports say the two groups have about $780,000 to spend. Other groups, like the National Rifle Association, are spending money in support of Pawlenty.
While Hatch and Pawlenty are pondering how best to spend their money, the other candidates are trying to stay afloat. Hatch's opponent in the DFL primary, Becky Lourey, reports that her campaign is running a deficit. Campaign officials said they didn't expect to finish their report by the Monday deadline.
Spokesman Jim Robins wouldn't disclose the amount of the deficit. He said the campaign has had problems raising money since the June endorsing convention, but is confident Lourey will win the primary with the support of grass roots activists. He says the campaign will then rely on the public subsidies for the November election.
"It's much like Jesse Ventura in '98," says Robins. "He has a terrible time raising money, but as soon as you move forward with a competitive campaign by winning a primary, the money will flow in."
The Independence Party's endorsed candidate, Peter Hutchinson, would also be facing a deficit if the candidate hadn't lent the campaign $35,000 since December. Hutchinson's report says he has $16,000 cash on hand. Hutchinson would receive a public subsidy of about $280,000 if he wins the primary.
Hutchinson's campaign spokeswoman, Melanie Soucheray, says she's not too worried about finances. She says all of the IP candidates for statewide office are sharing resources, and are relying on grassroots campaigning.
"We are making headway on what we always believed would be less money than what our opponents would have, and we're meeting the people face to face," says Soucheray. "Not in television ads, not from airplanes. We're on the ground and we're going to continue to do that."
Hutchinson's primary opponent, Pam Ellison, has $616 left in the bank. Pawlenty's opponent in the Republican primary, Sue Jeffers, says her campaign requested more time to finish its report.