AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin and Democrat Emily Cain ran the most expensive House race in Maine history in 2014. It looks like they will again in 2016.
Maine’s 2nd Congressional District is a national priority for both parties, and the fundraising numbers show it. Through March, Poliquin raised more than $2.2 million to Cain’s total of just under $1.2 million, according to updated reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Those hauls are about $400,000 short of the $3.7 million raised by both candidates in 2014, a race also marked by $3 million in additional spending from outside groups. Poliquin’s seat was Democratic for 20 years before he won in 2014, a factor helping make it one of this year’s highest-dollar races.
Let’s look inside the numbers:
Steep national involvement has allowed a significant amount of money to flow to the candidates in Maine’s 2nd District, compared to other Congressional races.
National interests have played a massive role in the 2016 race. The undercurrent is simple: For Democrats to win control of the House, they need to take back places such as the 2nd District, which voted for President Barack Obama in 2012.
Cain was pushed to run again in 2016 by House Democrats’ campaign arm. Both Poliquin and Cain have been added to party programs giving them extra assistance. Poliquin raised money with former House Speaker John Boehner, and earlier this month, Cain had a speaking slot at a California conference of Democratic megadonors.
Donors have followed. At nearly $3.7 million, candidates in the 2nd District have raised the 22nd-most among all House races in the country, according to federal data aggregated by Influence Explorer. (That includes Democrat Joe Baldacci, who dropped out in February.)
Poliquin has outraised Cain steeply, but on a curve, her success is similar: His haul is the 20th-highest for a House incumbent; hers is 29th-highest for a challenger. The race also ranks 11th-highest nationally in outside spending, behind $164,000 from the House Majority PAC, a Democratic super-PAC that advertised against Poliquin last year.
Poliquin’s lead is driven by large PAC contributions. While Cain touts fundraising “momentum,” she’s far behind, and 2016 is not seen as a boon to Maine Democrats.
The Republican — a former Wall Street investment manager on the House Financial Services Committee — has gotten $1 million, or just under half of his haul, so far from political action and other candidate committees.
About $350,000 of that has come from the financial sector. ACE Cash Express, a payday loan company, Visa and Capital One donated to him in 2016. That mix isn’t abnormally high for an incumbent. For example, Democrat Mike Michaud, Poliquin’s predecessor, raised 63 percent of his money from committees in 2012.
Still, Cain has called Poliquin “a friend of Wall Street” while raising more than three-quarters of her money so far from individuals, getting $278,000 from committees, including labor groups.
She also touted “momentum” in a Monday press release. For the first time during the campaign, Cain bested Poliquin in a fundraising period, getting $386,000 in the first three months of 2016 to his $329,000, with about 1,000 Maine donors to his 100.
But donors don’t equal voters, Poliquin’s lead is strong and House incumbents won 95 percent of their races in 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This time, Cain’s banking on a bloc of Democratic-leaning voters being driven to the polls to elect presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.
It’s not clear that’ll happen: A March poll from Critical Insights found that while Clinton led Republican front-runner Donald Trump in Maine, majorities found both untrustworthy, and an analysis from Morning Consult gave Trump a slight edge, though it was within the margin of error with 17 percent undecided.
So unless something changes, Cain and other Democrats are not forecast to see the desired down-ballot effect.
In short, Poliquin has $1 million more in his war chest than Cain, largely stemming from donations by political action committees. While she has slightly narrowed the gap in early 2016, it still may not be enough to knock out the incumbent.