Democrats ride ‘green wave’ as they try to capture Senate majority
Democratic challengers in many of the key Senate races that will determine which party controls the chamber next year have over the past three months outraised the Republican incumbents they’re hoping to unseat in November’s general election.
“The green wave of fundraising that helped Democrats take back the House in 2018 is now a tsunami of cash in Senate races for Democrats that could clear the way for them to flip the Senate in November,” said Jessica Taylor, who closely tracks the Senate races for the Cook Report, a leading non-partisan political handicapper.
Republicans enjoy a 53-47 majority in the U.S. Senate, but the party’s defending 23 of the 35 seats up for grabs in the chamber this November. And while at least a half-dozen GOP seats are considered battlegrounds, Democrats are defending just one or two vulnerable incumbents. Senate Republicans fortunes are also tied to President Trump – whose poll position in public opinion surveys has been nothing to brag about the past couple of months.
Aiding Democrats as they try to win back a chamber they lost in 2014 is a surge in campaign cash — which was once again was illustrated with the release of the April-June second quarter of fundraising figures.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee communications director Lauren Passalacqua touted that “Democrats have posted impressive fundraising all cycle, and this quarter’s record-breaking numbers reflect a continued surge in small-dollar grassroots support for flipping the Senate and an unprecedented motivation to hold Republicans in Washington accountable.”
National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Jesse Hunt countered that “Democrats will need to spend every penny to defend records that are disqualifying in the eyes of mainstream voters who will decide the outcome in key Senate races. Personal scandals and a party rallying around a socialist agenda are problems money can’t solve.”
GOP strategist Brian Walsh stressed that Republican voters need to pay attention to these fundraising reports.
“These fundraising numbers should be a stark wake up call for Republican donors. If you don’t want higher taxes, government health care and the green new deal, now is the time to step up even more because the situation is serious and control of the Senate is up for grabs,” said Walsh, a former NRSC communications director and former senior adviser to GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and a veteran of numerous Senate, congressional and gubernatorial campaigns.
Compounding the situation, the new fundraising figures come as some of the GOP incumbents also face challenging poll numbers.
Here’s a breakdown of the campaign cash battle in the crucial Senate showdowns.
Retired astronaut and first-time candidate Mark Kelly hauled in an eye-popping $12.8 million. The Democratic challenger’s fundraising topped by roughly $3.5 million the amount brought in by Republican Sen. Martha McSally – the first female Air Force office to fly in combat. And Kelly had more than double the $11 million McSally had in her campaign coffers at the start of July.
Democratic challenger and former Gov. John Hickenlooper outraised GOP incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner by $1.6 million the past three months. And Hickenlooper, who ran unsuccessfully last year for the Democratic presidential nomination, had more than double Gardner’s cash-on-hand at the start of this month.
Democratic challenger and current Gov. Steve Bullock hauled in $7.8 million in the second quarter – topping Republican Sen. Steve Daines by nearly $3 million. Bullock – who also made a bid for the White House before dropping out – had a slight edge in money in the campaign coffers.
As longtime moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins fights for her political life, Democratic challenger and state House Speaker Sara Gideon brought in $9.4 million the past three months. That’s roughly $3.6 million more than Collins raised.
Gideon – who on Tuesday won Maine’s Democratic Senate primary – now inherits nearly $4 million in crowdfunded contributions raised for Collins’ eventual Democratic challenger. The fund was set up during the epic 2018 Senate battle over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Collins ended up supporting the president’s controversial high court nominee.
The two candidates are nearly even when it comes to cash on hand.
Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield brought in $6 million the past three months, outraising Republican Sen. Joni Ernst by approximately $2.4 million. But Ernst retains the edge when it comes to money in the campaign coffers.
Army veteran and Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham brought in $7.4 million, nearly triple the amount raised by GOP Sen. Thom Tillis. But the incumbent has a slight edge in cash on hand.
In one of the two Senate races in the state this November, Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff outraised Republican Sen. David Purdue by approximately $1.7 million. But the incumbent retains a large cash-on-hand lead.
Even in some races where the Democratic challengers face steeper climbs, they outraised the GOP incumbents:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the chamber, hauled a very healthy $12.2 million in the second quarter. But he was topped by Democratic challenger and former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who brought in a massive $17.4 million. McGrath trailed McConnell by just half a million dollars in campaign cash at the start of July.
Challenger and former South Carolina Democratic Party chair Jamie Harrison outraised GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham by more than $5 million, thanks to a whopping $14 million haul. But Graham retained a nearly $5 million advantage in money in the campaign coffers.
Democratic challenger Mike Espy – who served as Agriculture Secretary under President Clinton – outraised Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith by a three-to-one margin. But the GOP incumbent had double the cash on hand at the end of June.
There are two Democratic incumbents who face challenging reelections:
Republican challenger John James outraised Democratic Sen. Gary Peters by roughly $1.1 million. But Peters still enjoyed a nearly $3 million cash on hand advantage as of July 1.
Sen. Doug Jones – the Democrat most at risk of losing in November – learned on Tuesday that his GOP challenger in the deep red state will be Tommy Tuberville. The former Auburn University head football coach crushed former attorney general and former Senator Jeff Sessions in the Republican primary runoff election, thanks in large part to support from the president.