Senate Dems Still Crushing Their GOP Rivals In Fundraising

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 28: on the fourth day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images North America

This story has been updated throughout to include total quarterly receipts — a more comprehensive measure — rather than net contributions to the campaigns.

Senate Democrats have continued to run circles around their GOP opponents in the race for cash ahead of 2018, putting them in a strong position to ride the developing blue wave to victory and boosting their slim chances of winning Senate control.

With less than 200 days to go to until the 2018 elections, all ten of the Democratic senators running in states President Trump won have major campaign cash advantages over their Republican opponents, according to numbers reported to the FEC. The party is also in strong financial shape to seriously contest four GOP-held seats after some impressive hauls by non-incumbents.

Democrats are still playing more defense than offense this year. Those ten Trump-state seats they have to defend compare to just one blue-state seat being defended by Republicans. And GOP outside groups are still likely to outspend their Democratic counterparts by a wide margin.

But these fundraising numbers are bolstering Democrats’ slim but growing hopes to net the two seats needed to seize Senate control next year. They show that progressives’ fury at Trump continues to drive huge Democratic cash grabs, while GOP promises that their fundraising woes would go away with the passage of tax reform have proven false.

All but one of the 10 Trump-state Democratic incumbents topped $1 million raised in the first three months of 2018, the standard benchmark for a solid Senate fundraising quarter. That includes some massive hauls. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) raised just shy of $4 million, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) brought in $3.7 million, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) raised $3.4 million, and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) raised $3.3 million.

Nelson will need all that money and more, as billionaire Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is self-funding and dropped a combined $90 million on his two past gubernatorial races.

But overall, besides Florida there are no races in the country where Republican candidates are expected to have a real cash edge, while Democrats will have serious advantages in a number of key races. Brown and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Jon Tester (D-MT) could face self-funders as well, but none of their potential opponents are expected to be able to personally bankroll the entirety of their campaigns.

The full quarterly fundraising chart can be found at the bottom of this story.

Most of those 10 Trump-state Democratic senators at least doubled up the fundraising of their nearest GOP opponents, and all of them have at least twice the cash in the bank as their chief rivals. Many have much wider cash advantages, with five of the 10 Democrats sitting on at least four times the cash of their best-funded opponents.

That includes huge gaps in some of the GOP’s best pickup opportunities this fall. McCaskill’s $11.5 million war-chest dwarfs Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s $2.1 million. Sen. Jon Tester’s (D-MT) $6.8 million towers over Montana state Auditor Matt Rosendale’s $500,000 and former state judge Russell Fagg’s $600,000. Sen. Bob Casey’s (D-PA) $10 million overshadows Rep. Lou Barletta’s (R-PA) $1.6 million. Even Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) starts off with a real cash edge against Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), who jumped into the race in February, with a $5.4 million to $1.9 million advantage.

Manchin’s $950,000 haul was the lowest of the Democratic incumbents — but it was still more than double the amount Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey each raised in the last quarter. Both Republicans are having to spend much of their cash ahead of their May 8 primary against self-funding ex-con and coal baron Don Blankenship (R), who Republicans admit would likely cost them any chance of beating Manchin if he’s the nominee.

Democrats also got a bunch of good news in the handful of Senate races they’re seriously targeting this fall.

In Nevada, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) brought in $2.6 million, more than doubling the $1.1 million Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) raised. She’s closing in on him in total in cash on hand, with a $4.4 million to $3.5 million gap.

Those impressive numbers pale in comparison to the astonishing $6.8 million Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) raised for his race against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who brought in $2.7 million. O’Rourke’s huge haul leaves him with an $8 million to $7.2 million advantage.

In Arizona, both Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) posted huge hauls — McSally raised $3.4 million (including a transfer from her House account) to Sinema’s $2.5 million. But Sinema has a huge cash advantage, with $6.7 million in the bank to McSally’s $2.6 million.

On top of that, McSally is facing a competitive primary against former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, both of whom raised about a half-million dollars, and will have to spend plenty of money (and time) focused on them through August.

Republicans did get some more good news in Tennessee. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) kept up her strong fundraising with a $2 million haul, but former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, raised nearly as much and loaned himself $1.4 million for a $3.2 million total for the quarter. She maintains a major $5.9 million to $1.7 million cash edge for now, but Bredesen’s ability to self-fund makes that less daunting than it would otherwise be.

These numbers are a funhouse mirror of what’s happening on the House side, where Democrats out-raised Republicans in a whopping 60 GOP-held districts, including in 43 with Republican incumbents running for reelection, and 16 House Republicans have less cash on hand than at least one Democratic opponent.

Those numbers, taken together, are putting Democrats in an excellent position to surf the building Democratic wave and maximize their gains in November, setting them up to potentially capture one and maybe both houses of Congress this fall.

Here’s the full fundraising chart of potentially competitive races, based on numbers culled from the Senate Clerk’s office as reported to the Federal Election Commission:

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