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We Were Told There Would Be No (Fundraising) Math

There’s just a week and a day to go until Election Day, which means we may be able to save our inbox from fundraising spam hell in just a few short days.  

Although HOH tries desperately to pay politics no mind, activists from across the ideological spectrum continuously flood our email (just like yours) with panic-ridden pleas for just enough cash to save a candidate from professional doom if we just ACT NOW!  

This year’s midterm elections are shaping up to be a down-to-the-wire contest, with control of the Senate very much in play. A potential downgrade to minority status has a handful of Senate Democrats on high alert, perhaps none more so than Mark Pryor. The two-term Arkansas Democrat is fending off a challenge from GOP Rep. Tom Cotton and has not been shy about prodding potential supporters to pitch in a buck (or $50) every chance he gets. We looked with bemusement upon the multiple emails per day, often sent hours apart, punctuated by all-caps ALERTS. At least we did, until we started paying attention to the mystery calculations at the heart of the digital outreach.  

Just before 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 16, Pryor’s re-election campaign warned that he needed to collect 174 more donations — the lowest suggested amount was $5, suggesting the group was only about $870 in the hole — in the next 10 hours or (nearly) all would be lost.  


“Are YOU really going to let these Medicare-slashing, Social Security-privatizing, anti-women, reckless ideologues take control of the U.S. Senate?” the cash-strapped copywriters railed.  

That same day, with a full four hours and 27 minutes still on the clock, Team Pryor pre-emptively threw in the towel, hit reset — even though it had presumably welcomed 132 donors into the fold — and gave itself an additional 9 hours to scrape together $210.  


“We still need 42 more donors by 9 a.m. If you won’t give now … we can kiss the Senate goodbye,” the follow-up email said.  

Roughly 24 hours and three frantic emails later, Pryor was back pleading for another shot in the arm.  


“If we don’t raise $3,319 by MIDNIGHT TONIGHT, the Kochs have the airwaves AND ALL those early voters to themselves. WE. WILL. LOSE.” Team Pryor put out there.  

We guess the situation must have improved ever so slightly within the next 62 minutes.  

But not enough, obviously, to avoid zapping out a thinly veiled confirmation blast (“Is this still your email address, Friends?”). Still, Team Pryor hinted it had collected just more than $1,300 since it had last hit “send” — but acknowledged needing an additional 400-odd supporters to crack open their wallets.  


“We’re not trying to flood your inbox, but today we’ve been refreshing ActBlue and the numbers are BAD,” the doom-and-gloom brigade shared.  

Across the aisle, the formula works a little differently.  

The Conservative Action Fund mostly sticks with patriotic-themed pitches (base bid is $17.76). But its new twist involves vowing, just this once, to not take a taste of the action, in a pitch to get Republican David Perdue to replace retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss in Georgia.  


“Step forward right now and take advantage of our SPECIAL DIRECT CONDUIT DONATION LINK to make an immediate, campaign-saving contribution to David’s campaign,” CAF implored the virtual masses early Monday.  

The laissez-faire strategy quickly caught on.  

Not 40 minutes later, the military-minded National Defense PAC waved the white flag against pocketing any loot sent to Team Cotton.  


“There won’t be one single penny in fees or transaction costs taken from your donation, thanks to National Defense PAC!” the group congratulated itself.  

Whatever works, y’all.  

Related Stories: 10 Moments That Won or Lost Senate Control Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

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