Democrats dominated Republicans in money races across the House map and in key Senate contests with three weeks left before midterm elections.
Money is no guarantee of electoral outcomes, but the numbers suggest that Democratic voters’ enthusiasm continues unabated in 2018, with small-dollar donors in particular fueling the party’s hopes of reshaping Republican-run Washington for the final two years of President Donald Trump’s first term.
The Democrats’ campaign arm says 110 House Democratic candidates outraised Republican incumbents or the GOP nominees in open seats. At least 60 Democrats topped $1 million in fundraising during the quarter, according to a party analysis, with several posting eye-popping hauls in excess of $2 million and even $3 million.
Democrats need to pick up at least 23 more seats to become the majority in January.
Senate Democratic incumbents posted strong quarters, as well, even as the slate of elections in states Trump won leaves Republicans well-positioned to hold their narrow Senate majority.
Candidates, party committees and some political action committees had to submit their latest reports to the Federal Election Commission before midnight Monday. The FEC is still processing much of the data that covers activity through Sept. 30.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights:
UNDERDOG HOUSE CANDIDATES RAKE IN CASH
Some of Democrats’ top hopes for flipping GOP seats — candidates running in House districts where President Donald Trump lost in 2016 — have outraised their opponents for much of the cycle.
But with 110 Democratic hopefuls outraising the GOP incumbent or nominee in contested seats, the third quarter stands out as a sign of enthusiasm that extends deep into the House map to include districts where Trump prevailed relatively comfortably.
Democrat Amy McGrath pulled in $3.25 million in a central Kentucky district where Rep. Andy Barr was not initially considered among the most vulnerable GOP incumbents. For the cycle, McGrath has topped $6 million. For his part, Barr pulled in more than $4 million, but he depended much more heavily on PACs than McGrath. She raised more in individual contributions in the third quarter ($3.14 million) than Barr has raised from individuals since the start of 2017 ($2.2 million).
In Arkansas, state lawmaker Clarke Tucker pulled in nearly $700,000 — $575,000 from individuals — to outpace two-term Republican incumbent French Hill’s $595,000 haul, $358,000 of it from individuals.
In the most heavily Trump district that could flip to Democrats, West Virginia Democrat Richard Ojeda tripled his GOP opponent by pulling in $1.3 million. Among small donors who don’t have to be listed individually, Ojeda collected 25 times more than Carol Devine Miller. Trump won the district by 50 percentage points, but polls suggest Ojeda can win in November.
National Democrats are cautious about predicting how many seats they can win, and they acknowledge privately that many of their candidates in more conservative areas may lose despite their fundraising performance. But the ability of candidates like Ojeda and Tucker to finance legitimate campaigns forces Republican party committees and political action committees to spread their money into more districts, thus diluting the strength of the GOP’s purse.
It’s also worth noting that candidates get cheaper television ad rates, so an underdog like Tucker in Arkansas can stretch his money more than an outside Republican PAC that comes into Little Rock to help Hill.
ACT BLUE VS. GOP MEGA DONORS
ActBlue, an online portal that allows donors to send campaign cash to candidates across the country, says it raised about $385 million in the third quarter, with an average contribution of $49. The group’s individual contributions for the cycle now top $810 million.
ActBlue’s proliferation has helped counter the long-standing Republican advantage among PACs fueled by billionaire donors, such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s eight-figure support for the Congressional Leadership Fund that Speaker Paul Ryan is using as his principal means of trying to preserve the GOP’s House majority. Adelson has made similar contributions to the Senate Leadership Fund PAC.
Through the end of September, CLF has collected more than $126 million, beyond its initial plan to spend at least $100 million defending GOP seats.
A GOP X-FACTOR: TRUMP
Republicans boast a notable small-donor fundraiser of their own: Trump.
The president reported $4.5 million in individual contributions between July 1 and Sept. 30 of this year, with $2.9 million of that from small-dollar donations that don’t have to be disclosed individually. Trump’s re-election campaign said in a statement that his overall fundraising activity for the quarter was $18 million, including the money the president raises along with the Republican National Committee for other GOP candidates running this year.
VULNERABLE SENATE DEMS STILL FLUSH
Republicans are hoping to use Trump’s popularity in certain states to increase their Senate majority, yet Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana both continue to dominate their GOP opponents in fundraising.
McCaskill reported $7 million in net contributions that includes $4.6 million in itemized individual contributions and an additional $2.18 million from nonitemized, small-dollar contributors. Republican Josh Hawley’s campaign says he took in $3.4 million, with the breakdown of that haul not immediately available.
In Montana, Tester raised $3.75 million in the latest period, compared to $1.7 million for Republican challenger Matt Rosendale. Tester reported $3.47 million in individual contributions to Rosendale’s $1.58 million. And the incumbent’s small-dollar haul was more than three times his challenger’s: $918,000 to $265,000.
A WINDFALL IN TEXAS
Texas Democratic Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke set perhaps the most notable mark of the fundraising period, pulling in $38 million for the quarter, more than tripling that of Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. But underscoring Democrats’ challenging path to a Senate majority, polls show Cruz with a consistent lead nearing double digits.
Democrats aren’t yet grumbling about O’Rourke’s vacuum of national money, but the numbers suggest there could be some second-guessing about donors’ priorities if Republicans are able to win several close races such as Nevada, Arizona, North Dakota, Indiana and Missouri to protect and expand their majority.
The flip side is that having O’Rourke’s strength as a statewide candidate — even if he loses — could help House challengers unseat Republican incumbents like Pete Sessions in metro Dallas and John Culberson in metro Houston.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Rep. French Hill is a two-term incumbent.
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