Money Pours Into Michigan Senate Race As Tight Polling Spooks Democrats

SOUTHFIELD, MICHIGAN - OCTOBER 16: Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) speaks at a campaign event with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at Beech Woods Recreation Center October 16, 2020 in Southfield, Michigan. (Photo b... SOUTHFIELD, MICHIGAN - OCTOBER 16: Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) speaks at a campaign event with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at Beech Woods Recreation Center October 16, 2020 in Southfield, Michigan. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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October 22, 2020 1:58 p.m.

Michigan is one of Republicans’ scant Senate pickup opportunities in a cycle that favors the Democrats — and the money being spent there reflects it. 

On Thursday, the campaign for incumbent Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) announced that it had raised $7.4 million from October 1 to October 14. “The surge in grassroots fundraising comes after Peters’ third quarter fundraising marked the largest quarterly haul for a Senate candidate in Michigan history,” the campaign said in a press release. 

The influx is likely a welcome sign to the Peters campaign, which had been out-fundraised by Republican challenger John James this year in every quarter prior. The James campaign did not respond to questions about their pre-general filing report for the same two week period. 

Outside groups have also been spending lavishly on the race, with the Democratic Senate Majority PAC spending some $29 million in the race so far, including $4.4  last week. The Republican Senate Leadership Fund answered with nearly $13 million, according to the Center For Responsive Politics. 

The race attracted attention from panicked Democrats last week, when a New York Times-Siena poll showed Peters only leading James by a single point. Most other polls from this month have shown Peters with a mid- to high-single digit lead.

Former President Barack Obama also cut an ad for Peters that aired early this week, the only one he filmed for an incumbent, not a challenger. The only other Democratic incumbent likely to need the same kind of help is Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), whose race seems more dire in the Trump-loving state. Obama recorded a robocall on Jones’ behalf during his 2017 special election against Roy Moore that went out 24 hours before Election Day, though Jones said he wasn’t told about it at the time.

Holding Peters’ seat is crucial for Democrats as they look to flip the Senate. They need a net gain of three seats, plus the White House, to achieve a bare minority. That will also likely entail winning an additional seat, as Jones is fighting an uphill battle against a candidate much less toxic to Republicans than Moore, marred by accusations of preying on underage girls, was three years ago.

There are four seats — in Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina and Maine — that Democrats seem well-positioned to pick up. Winning five entails dipping into TPM’s “toss-up” category, though there is some evidence to suggest that Iowa may be trending more Democrat-friendly in the final weeks of the campaign.

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