Here's a question I didn't expect to ask: Does money really matter in the race for mayor?

Before you answer, here's another: Could race also be irrelevant?

It's long been clear that the Democratic primary election being held Tuesday in Philadelphia has a new set of rules for money.

Much attention has been paid to the rise of independent expenditure groups, or so-called IEs, which can raise and spent unlimited funds, unhindered by the limits from the city's campaign finance law.

Just as much attention was focused on the "racial math" of the mayor's race, the concept that black voters support black candidates while white voters back white candidates.

Let's start with money.

The IE groups exist because the U.S. Supreme Court rewrote the rules in 2010, declaring that those groups can raise and spend as much money as they want as long as they don't coordinate with candidates or campaigns.

The IE group money did indeed flow freely here. Much of it went to pay for television commercials.

That was a big win for the local television stations. But what about the candidates in those ads? Did they benefit at all?

One group, American Cities, raised $6.8 million as of May 4 to support state Sen. Anthony H. Williams for mayor, with 97 percent coming from three guys on the Main Line who founded a stock trading firm.

Two groups - Building a Better PA Fund and Forward Philadelphia - raised a combined $2.3 million to support former City Councilman Jim Kenney for mayor. Much of that money was from unions.

Add it all up - more than $9.1 million raised by special-interests groups.

Williams should be winning - right? - because the IE group on his side has a clear advantage over the IE groups that want Kenney as mayor.

An independent poll out last week - commissioned by The Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Philly.com, and NBC10 - instead showed Kenney holding the lead in the six-way Democratic primary contest - by a lot.

The fixation on money had many looking past fundamental politics.

Candidates still have to campaign. They have to talk to voters. They have to ask for votes. They have to convince people that they can handle the job, that their policies are best, that they should be mayor.

The Democratic primary has seen more than 70 candidate forums and four debates. Voters who care have had a good look at the options.

So maybe money doesn't matter as much if Kenney holds a lead despite the lopsided IE money totals.

On to race.

The same poll that showed Kenney with a lead showed us something surprising about race itself.

Kenney, who is white, was in a statistical dead heat with Williams, who is black, for the support of African American Democratic voters.

The traditional racial math, it seems, doesn't add up.

That stood out to G. Terry Madonna, the director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College.

Black voters casting ballots for Kenney in significant numbers "would completely destroy the paradigm of African American voters voting for African American candidates," Madonna said. "The paradigm was destroyed in 2007 for white voters voting for an African American candidate."

In that election, white voters crossed over in head-turning numbers to support an African American candidate for mayor, Michael Nutter.

How did that work out?

Last week's poll showed Nutter with a strong approval rating at 59 percent. Break it down by race and Nutter's support remains in positive territory: 67 percent of white Democratic likely voters, 52 percent with blacks.

So how much will race and money matter on Tuesday?

We'll see.

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@byChrisBrennan