According to people familiar with the situation, Republican megadonor Peter Thiel is sending out signals to allies that he is largely finished supporting Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance and wants to use his deep-pocketed political network to support Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters, who is trailing Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in the polls.
According to individuals who were present and overheard Thiel’s remarks, Vance is on pace to defeat Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, in the Senate race, Thiel told attendees at a recent Masters fundraising event. The Republican donor’s $5 million Los Angeles house served as the event’s venue.
According to one of the persons acquainted with Thiel’s interactions with participants, “Peter stated, ‘That campaign [Ohio Senate] is done in my mind. In Ohio, a battleground state where Republicans have had considerable success in recent years, Vance and Ryan are battling for retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s seat. This source explained Thiel’s remarks made at the fundraiser: ′′’We just have to get Blake across the finish line.
After the midterm elections, the outcomes of the contests in Arizona and Ohio will be crucial in determining which party will control the Senate, be able to set policy, and be able to approve President Joe Biden’s candidates. Due to Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to break ties, Democrats maintain a majority in the tie-breaking Senate.
Republicans’ efforts to retake control of the Senate would be strengthened by either winning the Arizona seat or holding their position in Ohio. The Ohio Senate race is classified by The Cook Political Report as “lean Republican,” whilst Arizona is classified as “lean Democrat.”
Candidates and their affiliated outside groups have poured money into advertisements ahead of the Nov. 8 elections since both races will determine Senate control. According to statistics from AdImpact, independent groups and campaigns have invested over $120 million in the Arizona Senate race, compared to over $100 million in the Ohio election.
Whether Thiel intends to provide more money to a pro-Masters super PAC was kept a secret from the attendees of the fundraiser. However, the fact that he told viewers to pay more attention to Masters than Vance suggests he still has money to spend in the Arizona Senate race with just over a month until Election Day. It also reflects the idea that Arizona may have a bigger influence on Senate control than Ohio.
According to those familiar with Thiel’s remarks, during the Masters fundraiser dinner, Thiel informed participants that Vance no longer requires the boost he needed during the GOP primary because most polls show him leading Ryan. Vance is in front of Ryan by more than 1 percentage point, according to the average of RealClearPolitics polls. According to the nonpartisan OpenSecrets, Ryan has raised over $21 million while Vance has raised just over $3.6 million.
These sources said that Thiel was aware that Masters was behind Kelly in numerous public surveys and need a big cash injection to compete with Kelly’s fundraising machine. According to OpenSecrets, Kelly’s campaign has raised more over $50 million, while Masters has only brought in slightly more than $4 million.
Outside PACs have come in to fill the funding vacuum created by the fact that many Republican Senate races generate much less money than their Democratic rivals. A pro-Masters Thiel super PAC called Saving Arizona just spent $1.5 million on television ads to back its chosen candidate.
The Masters campaign is putting fresh TV ad expenditure after being off the air since late August, according to ad tracker Medium Ad Buying, which also noted this in a tweet. A RealClearPolitics average of recent surveys shows Kelly leading Masters by at least 4 percentage points.
According to Federal Election Commission records, Thiel donated $30 million to super PACs supporting Vance and Masters during their fiercely contested GOP primary contests. He hasn’t yet made a contribution to any of the PACs for the general election though.
Both Vance and Masters collaborated with Thiel before to beginning their campaigns for the Senate. When Masters was chief operational officer at Thiel Capital, Vance used to work there. Mithril Capital is an investment company that Thiel co-founded.
At least 40 individuals showed up for the fundraising event at Thiel’s house, and around a dozen more sent money to Masters’ campaign but were unable to attend. Individual tickets for the event ranged in price from $1,500 to $5,800, with a potential revenue range of $75,000 to $290,000.
Tom Sauer, the event co-host and a businessman, shared photos from the fundraiser on Twitter, showing Masters addressing the audience of contributors near Thiel’s outdoor pool. Michael Wang, a seasoned hedge fund manager, and Joshua Steinman, a former deputy assistant to former President Donald Trump, were mentioned as additional co-hosts on the dinner invitation.
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