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Tim Kiska: Following The Money

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By Tim Kiska

A new New York Times survey shows that only nine percent of Americans approve of the way Congress is handling its job. But before anybody predicts a major bloodletting among Michigan’s congressional delegation, allow me to reference a big, fat, powerful elephant in the room.

Money. Cash. Moola. Lucre.

The 14 incumbent members of Michigan congressional delegation running for re-election in 2012 have raised a median $432,315 between January and September. And those 14 are sitting on $391,453 in the bank. (See chart) I use the median because that number smooths out outliers, such as Congressman Dave Camp, the Midland Republican who also chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, easily one of the most powerful committees in Washington. He raked in more than $2.1 million so far this year, and has a campaign account worth almost $3 million.

And we’re just getting started. Keep in mind these snap shots are taken more than a year before Election Day.

(For the record, 14 members of Michigan’s 15-member congressional delegation are running for re-election. Flint’s Dale Kildee has announced his retirement. Incumbents Hansen Clarke and Gary Peters will run against each other in a Democratic primary next August in a newly-redrawn 14th Congressional District.)

While it’s not impossible to run a successful campaign on a limited budget, lack of money can be a major handicap. Another way of looking at it: a 5’6” basketball player might be able to outplay a 6’10” hulk. But the hulk has a natural advantage, and probably wins in the long run.

- Click to view the chart -

Anybody choosing to run against an incumbent would have to: 1. Raise serious money, often from people who have already donated. 2. Go against a lawmaker with heavy name recognition, usually developed over decades. In Congressman John Dingell’s case, that would be since 1955.

A familiar phrase comes to mind: Good luck with that.

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