While there's no definitive favorite in the majority leader race — especially with lingering questions about Select Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy's interest — Majority Whip Steve Scalise has one distinct advantage over Budget Chairman Tom Price: Scalise has spread around a lot more cash.
According to Federal Election Commission documents reviewed by CQ Roll Call, Scalise has given roughly $700,000 to fellow Republican members and candidates over the course of the first three quarters of 2015. (The third quarter data, which is not yet public, was supplied by Scalise's office.) In contrast, Price has transferred at least $139,000 to members and candidates through the third quarter.
(Price's office supplied CQ Roll Call with his contributions to members for the first three quarters from his leadership PAC — $84,000 — but would only give CQ Roll Call his campaign committee contributions for the first two quarters, roughly $55,000.)
By another comparison, Scalise has raised approximately $1.5 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee over the first three quarters, according to his office. That includes contributions to the general fund, the recount fund and the building fund. Meanwhile, Price has transferred $175,000 to the NRCC this cycle over the first two quarters. (Again, Price's office would not give CQ Roll Call his third quarter totals for NRCC contributions, if he made any.)
Asked Thursday how the disparity between their contributions would play into the majority leader race, Price said he didn't think it would. "I think folks are interested in picking the best person they think can bring us together," he said.
A Price aide told CQ Roll Call the Georgia Republican has raised millions over the years to support Republicans. "He's traveled to dozens of districts across the country to personally campaign for candidates," the aide said. "And, he looks forward to continuing to help our members in this capacity in the months to come."
While the disparity between Scalise and Price's member contributions may seem considerable, their different positions in the conference hierarchy make an apples-to-apples comparison difficult. Scalise has a natural fundraising advantage as the No. 3 Republican. His contributions this year are, however, historically high, even when compared with other majority whips.
Regardless of the comparison problems, this much is clear: Scalise's financial support for Republican colleagues won't hurt him.
Price may be right that this race won't be won or lost on contributions to members, but Scalise's edge speaks to his general advantage as whip. The Louisiana Republican has had a whip team from the very beginning of the race, and he won a leadership contest only 16 months ago. One Republican, who said he's supporting Price, said his impression was that Scalise currently had the lead just by virtue of his superior operation.
But Scalise's position also comes with drawbacks, namely an association with some of the frustration members feel with leadership.
That discontent seemed to materialize Tuesday, when Gowdy's name was floated as a potential alternative to Price and Scalise.
Price told CQ Roll Call Thursday the Gowdy boomlet "speaks to the frustration that exists in the conference."
"What we need as a conference," Price continued, "is to find a way to unify and come together for common purposes, and whether that's me or whether that's somebody else, that's what the conference needs to decide."
Gowdy has insisted he won't seek a leadership post. But the South Carolina Republican did meet privately Thursday in Utah Republican Mia Love's office with Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y. Chaffetz, Love and Zeldin have made the most noise about "drafting" Gowdy.
While it isn't clear what the group discussed, it seems the calls for Gowdy or another Republican haven't yet subsided. But if another Republican is going to get the race, he or she had better do it soon. Elections will be held on Oct. 8, and more Republicans are committing to Scalise and Price every day.