As Cable News Focused on Queen, Democratic Political Donations Slipped
When the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina introduced a bill this month to ban abortions nationwide after 15 weeks, Democratic fund-raisers expected it to dominate news outlets like MSNBC, bringing small-dollar donations for candidates.
But they did not anticipate that cable news networks, overtaken by the death of Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 8, would relegate politics to an afterthought for more than week in favor of ancient rituals, Grenadier Guards and the monarch’s corgis.
Suddenly, the traditional September influx of campaign cash slipped, which Democrats attributed in significant part to the round-the-clock coverage of the 10-day period of mourning for the queen that culminated in her funeral on Monday.
Democrats said that they relied on grass-roots donations — those under $250 — to compete with spending by Republican-aligned super PACs on television ads, particularly in battleground states.
Nat Binns, a principal for MissionWired, a digital fund-raising company that supports Democrats, said in an interview on Friday that he had never experienced such a vacuum of political news stories at this stage of the campaigns.
Some Key Moments in Queen Elizabeth’s Reign
Becoming queen. Following the death of King George VI, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary ascended to the throne on Feb. 6, 1952, at age 25. The coronation of the newly minted Queen Elizabeth II took place on June 2 the following year.
A historic visit. On May 18, 1965, Elizabeth arrived in Bonn on the first state visit by a British monarch to Germany in more than 50 years. The trip formally sealed the reconciliation between the two nations following the world wars.
First grandchild. In 1977, the queen stepped into the role of grandmother for the first time, after Princess Anne gave birth to a son, Peter. Elizabeth’s four children have given her a total of eight grandchildren, who have been followed by several great-grandchildren.
Princess Diana’s death. In a rare televised broadcast ahead of Diana’s funeral in 1997, Queen Elizabeth remembered the Princess of Wales, who died in a car crash in Paris at age 36, as “an exceptional and gifted human being.”
Golden jubilee. In 2002, celebrations to mark Elizabeth II’s 50 years as queen culminated in a star-studded concert at Buckingham Palace in the presence of 12,000 cheering guests, with an estimated one million more watching on giant screens set up around London.
A trip to Ireland. In May 2011, the queen visited the Irish Republic, whose troubled relationship with the British monarchy spanned centuries. The trip, infused with powerful symbols of reconciliation, is considered one of the most politically freighted trips of Elizabeth’s reign.
Breaking a record. As of 5:30 p.m. British time on Sept. 9, 2015, Elizabeth II became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, surpassing Queen Victoria, her great-great-grandmother. Elizabeth was 89 at the time, and had ruled for 23,226 days, 16 hours and about 30 minutes.
Marking 70 years of marriage. On Nov. 20, 2017, the queen and Prince Philip celebrated their 70th anniversary, becoming the longest-married couple in royal history. The two wed in 1947, as the country and the world was still reeling from the atrocities of World War II.
Losing her spouse. In 2021, Queen Elizabeth II bade farewell to Prince Philip, who died on April 9. An image of the queen grieving alone at the funeral amid coronavirus restrictions struck a chord with viewers at home following the event.
“The coverage of the queen disrupted that moment,” Mr. Binns said. “It feels almost like we have to start over to build it up.”
The clients of MissionWired include at least three Senate Democrats facing tough re-election campaigns that could determine whether the party maintains control of the Senate: Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. The company is also working for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Governors Association and Representative Val Demings, who is challenging Senator Marco Rubio in Florida.
During the 2018 midterm elections, the company had a monthly fund-raising bump of 133 percent in September, Mr. Binns said. This year, he noted, the increase is projected to be half as much.
“I have never seen revenue in a day in September go down,” Mr. Binns said, adding that he was speaking generally, not about particular clients.
In the nine days after the queen’s death, the digital fund-raising totals for Ms. Demings slipped about 60 percent compared with the last nine days of August, said Christian Slater, a campaign spokesman.
Laura Carlson, digital director for the Democratic Governors Association, said in an interview on Friday that the group’s fund-raising fell from the first to the second week of September, which was a departure from past totals.
“One of the factors that kept kind of coming up was the queen’s funeral,” she said. “It definitely hurt our projections.”
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