Senate Democrats Dominate Their GOP Counterparts In Campaign Fundraising

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 23: Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., are seen during a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on the nominations of Jelena McWilliams, Marvin Goodfriend, and Thomas Workman on January 23, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Group

Senate Democrats have crushed their Republican rivals in campaign fundraising once again, the latest sign of a huge enthusiasm advantage as Democrats look to defend a tough map and widen their narrow path to the majority in the 2018 midterms.

Every Senate Democratic incumbent facing a tough reelection this year out-raised their opponent in the last three months of 2017, most by lopsided margins, according to recently filed Senate finance reports.

Nine of the ten Democrats who are up for reelection next year in states President Donald Trump carried raised at least $1 million in fundraising, and more than doubled the total brought in by their top opponent.

Six of those ten Democrats have at least five times as much cash in the bank as their nearest GOP opponent. No Republican running for a Democratic-held seat topped $1 million from donors in the last three months, the normal benchmark for a strong Senate fundraising quarter.

“Our members have a strong amount of support and enthusiasm and that’s reflected in those numbers,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) told TPM on Thursday. “All of our members are doing really well.”

Democrats also posted impressive fundraising numbers in the two states where they have the best pickup opportunities. Rep. Jackie Rosen (D-NV) nearly doubled Sen. Dean Heller’s (R-NV) numbers, with a $1.6 million quarter to Heller’s $820,000 (Heller still has $4.2 million in the bank to Rosen’s $1.8 million, however).

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) posted a similarly impressive $1.6 million, while Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) raised $1.1 million. Sinema has $5.2 million in the bank to McSally’s $1.8 million — a differential that will likely grow, as McSally faces a tough primary while Sinema has a clear field.

“It’s been better in January than it was in December… the tax bill and actually doing something has been helpful. But there are still some pretty good headwinds there,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), whose seat Sinema and McSally are running to fill, told TPM. “A lot of people aren’t happy with the direction of the party.”

Here’s the full fundraising chart:

Based on these tallies, there are signs that the Democratic map may further expand. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) pulled in a whopping $2.4 million, double Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) $1.2 million. While Cruz maintains a $6.4 million to $4.6 million lead in cash on hand, O’Rourke’s continued impressive numbers suggest he’ll have the money to compete in the expensive state.

These numbers follow a year-long pattern of bonanza fundraising for congressional Democrats, who bested their GOP counterparts by similar margins last quarter. Their continued solid fundraising has helped them further expand their cash leads in many states. And their fundraising dominance mirrors what’s happening elsewhere in Congress, where more than 40 House GOP incumbents were each out-raised by at least one Democratic challenger last quarter.

Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bob Casey (D-PA) all have more than $8 million in the bank, leagues ahead of their challengers, though recently announced self-funding Rep. Jim Renacci (R-OH) has the personal resources to match Brown, and billionaire Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) will likely outspend Nelson if he decides to run.

There are few bright spots for the GOP, even in states where their candidates did relatively well.

While each of the three Republicans running against Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) has almost $2.5 million in the bank, Donnelly now has $5.3 million stashed away, and his opponents will have to spend much of their resources to try to win the GOP primary. Even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who posted the weakest quarterly numbers of any red-state Democrat facing re-election, has $4.7 million in the bank, significantly more than his best-funded challenger.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) posted an impressive $1.9 million in her quest to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). But her primary opponent, former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), hauled in almost $1.5 million. Former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) — whose candidacy Democrats hope will further expand the map — raised almost half a million dollars in his first month in the race. While Bredesen is millions of dollars behind Blackburn and Fincher in cash on hand, he’ll likely be able to close that gap while they fight out the primary.

Candidate cash isn’t all that matters in races, and Republican-aligned outside groups tend to spend significantly more on down-ballot elections. While Democratic campaign committees in the House and Senate have continued to outpace their GOP opponents, the Republican National Committee has continued to dominate the Democratic National Committee in fundraising over the past year, buoyed by its alliance with President Donald Trump and donors’ continued mistrust of the DNC. And Trump and Republicans have seen their poll numbers tick up from abysmal to merely problematic over the past six weeks, a sign that the expected Democratic wave may not be the tsunami many liberals are hoping to see.

But Democratic candidates’ continued cash bonanza is the latest sign that if that wave does come, they’re ready to surf.

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