Democrats in the nation’s hottest Senate contests crush the opposition in fundraising
With less than four months to election dayDemocrats in the nation’s most competitive Senate contests crush their Republican opposition in the race for money.
Quarterly financial reports filed Wednesday show that in the nation’s most competitive Senate contests, Democratic candidates outperformed Republicans in all but two. two candidates, Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Texas Democrat MJ Hegar, had not filed their reports shortly before midnight Thursday.
In the 13 races where The Daily Beast was able to examine the finances of candidates from both parties – contests in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Iowa, Montana, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, Alaska and two in Georgia – Democratic candidates raised a total of $83.6 million versus $64.8 million for Republicans.
In 11 of those 13 Senate races, the Democratic nominee has edged out the Republican in the second quarter.
Republicans still collectively enjoy a sizable cash advantage in these races — $114 million versus $87 million for Democrats.— but the second-quarter fundraising numbers suggest that the momentum, at least on the fundraising front, is entirely on the side of Democrats for now.
Money alone doesn’t win elections, and some of the Democrats in those races face stiff opposition in a number of states usually considered GOP strongholds. But with polling data trending toward Democrats — from the top of the 2020 ticket down — the financial numbers released this week pose a major red flag for Republicans hoping to maintain their grip on the upper house of Congress.
Senators who were easily passed by their Democratic challengers include some of the GOP’s most vulnerable incumbents in must-win states for Democrats, such as Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado.
But some of the top Democratic fundraisers in the second quarter came to states that, if outside Republican control, would portend an election wave. In Kentucky, former Marine pilot Amy McGrath raised $17.4 million in the second quarter for her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The state is seen as a likely Republican grab, and McConnell released huge numbers, with $12.2 million raised. But down the stretch, McGrath all but eliminated McConnell’s cash advantage; she is now sitting on $16.2 million from $16.6 million.
In South Carolina, Democrat Jaime Harrison also posted staggering numbers in his bid to unseat Sen. Lindsey Graham, long considered a total punch in the dark red state. Harrison brought in $14 million to Graham’s $8.3 million, significantly closing the gap to the latter’s previously sizable cash advantage.
Even in Alaska, a traditional GOP stronghold only marginally on the Democratic map, incumbent Sen. Dan Sullivan was beaten in the fundraising race by top candidate Al Gross.
Michigan may have provided the only bright spot for Republicans in the second-quarter fundraising numbers. Democratic Sen. Gary Peters reported raising a respectable $5.2 million, but Republican challenger John James beat him with nearly $6.5 million. Peters still enjoys a slight cash advantage, but James’ fundraising may suggest momentum in this contest.
Michigan’s race was one of only two of the dozen reviewed by The Daily Beast in which the Republican nominee outperforms the Democrat. The other was one of two Georgia Senate contests this cycle, where incumbent Senator Kelly Loeffler reported bringing in about $5.9 million to Democrat Raphael Warnock’s $2.9 million. But $5 million of Loeffler’s loot was provided by the candidate herself in the form of a campaign loan. Excluding that loan, Loeffler was one of only two candidates reviewed who raised less than $1 million in the second quarter.
Other pillars of the GOP, the senses. Thom Tillis of North Carolina and David Perdue of Georgia were unable to clear $3 million while their opponents beat them – in Tillis’ case, by nearly $5 million.
Taken together, the second-quarter numbers provide appropriate punctuation for a spring of 2020 in which there were few bright spots for Senate Republicans. Over the past three months, the country has been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic and widespread protests over racial justice, both of which have driven President Trump’s approval ratings to some of the lowest points of his presidency. On Capitol Hill, GOP lawmakers often found themselves responding to Trump’s inflammatory tweets and combative gestures, such as his tear gas order in front of the White House and his insistence on striking down the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court, two politically unpopular measures.
Privately, some Republicans admit there is little daylight between Trump’s political ceiling and theirs in November, which worries them about their chances as he races toward the general election. Meanwhile, over the past quarter, Joe Biden has clinched the Democratic presidential nomination, giving what many in the party see as a boost to congressional candidates, especially in battlegrounds like North Carolina. North and Michigan. With few exceptions, what appeared to be competitive Democratic Senate primaries largely failed to bear fruit, with establishment picks shifting to the general election, bolstering enthusiasm and fundraising.
A Senate card that earlier this year gave the GOP an edge in retaining its majority now appears to be tied. Given Republicans’ six-seat advantage in the chamber, Democrats must flip four seats to win a majority, if that makes sense. Peters and Doug Jones (D-AL) win in their runs, which are the GOP’s top offensive targets.
Republicans have sounded the alarm that their fundraising must improve if their most threatened incumbents are to survive November 2020 with their jobs intact. Although the party created WinRed, a challenger to Democrats’ online fundraising juggernaut ActBlue, Senate Democrats continue to benefit hugely from the kinds of small contributions these platforms typically raise. In the second quarter, Harrison and McGrath, the Democrats’ top two Senate fundraising performers, earned 57% and 60% of their fundraisers, respectively, from donations under $200.