In 2012, being rich was a liability on the campaign trail. Yet in these midterm elections, personal wealth appeared to be an asset, or at least not a barrier to being elected.
All but a few of the more than one dozen high-profile rich candidates running for office last night won election. Most were Republicans, signaling that the overriding theme last night was the anti-Obama vote.
Yet the success of wealthy candidates also shows that the class-based politics of 2012—focusing largely on a candidate's fortune and outsize lifestyle—may be fading as the economy improves and unemployment falls.
In Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn was upset by Bruce Rauner, the venture capitalist worth nearly $1 billion. Quinn criticized Rauner's nine homes, $60 million income and, most famously, his membership in the Napa Valley Reserve, a wine club that costs more than $140,000 to join. Quinn, in contrast, ate on $11 a day to highlight the struggles of lower-income families.
In the end, it didn't appear to work: Rauner declared victory last night calling it a victory for "every family in Illinois."
In Georgia's Senate race, Democrat Michelle Nunn accused GOP opponent and businessman David Perdue of getting rich while sending jobs overseas. One attack ad showed former mill workers from North Carolina who lost their jobs when their company, Pillowtex, shut down shortly after Perdue became its CEO in 2002.
"He walked away with his $1.7 million, and he didn't care if we had a dollar in our pockets," said one worker in the ad.
Perdue won the election Tuesday, and in his victory speech last night he said: "We listened to your concerns, and you want to change the course of this country."
There were a few millionaire casualties Tuesday, but most were Democrats. Sean Eldridge, husband to wealthy Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, lost his congressional race in upstate New York by a wide margin.
And some rich Republicans lost. Chief among them was Tom Foley, who was running for governor in Connecticut. Incumbent Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy aired repeated commercials highlighting Foley's 116-foot yacht with the unfortunate (and impolitic) name of "Odalisque," which is a Turkish term for concubine.
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In New Jersey, former insurance executive Tom MacArthur, worth around $500 million, funded much of his own congressional campaign to beat Democratic challenger Aimee Belgard. During one debate, MacArthur said that his opponent tried "to take my business career, a great success story, and turn it into something else, and that's shameful."
Of the 10 congressional candidates who spent the most on their own races, six won and four lost. In these latest elections, it seemed, financial success meant campaign success.