Democrats smashed a record Thursday when their online fundraising portal ActBlue surpassed the $1.5 billion mark for the first time in a single election cycle, a staggering sum raised mostly through small-dollar donations that roughly doubles their take by the same means during the 2016 presidential race.
The sheer volume of donations funneled through the ActBlue platform, which enables users across the U.S. to give to their favorite candidates with a few taps on a smartphone, gives a strong indicator that the party’s base is fired-up less than two weeks before voters head to the polls.
But while Republicans, who have yet to develop an equally successful equivalent, acknowledge the advantage that it offers, it remains to be seen if the spike in liberal enthusiasm demonstrated by the unprecedented influx of cash will translate into electoral success.
Erin Hill, ActBlue’s executive director, said anger toward President Donald Trump’s administration and grassroots enthusiasm appears to be a driving force.
“Donors are angry and want to respond to what is happening in the administration,” said Hill. “These are folks who are going to vote, they are also going to participate in our democracy. This is about tying those candidates to the grassroots base in a really practical, important way.”
The $1.5 billion collected through the platform accounts for a major chunk of the more than $2.5 billion Democrats are projected to spend this midterm, according to data from OpenSecrets.org, which tracks money in politics. That gives them an edge in resources over the GOP, which is projected to spend nearly $2.3 billion, according to the website.
Democratic strategists are cautiously optimistic about their chances of taking back the House, where Republicans are defending a significant number of suburban districts. But the Senate appears to be slipping out of their grasp, with a large number of Democratic incumbents fighting for re-election in states Trump won.
Either way, in many cases, a loss won’t be due to a lack of resources. For example, more than 20 congressional candidates in key races posted fundraising sums last quarter that ranged between $1 million and $3 million, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission records. Those are figures that would be respectable in many statewide Senate races.
The average amount donated through ActBlue was about $40, with roughly 61 percent of donors identifying as women, said Hill. All told, more than 4.7 million unique donations were routed to more than 14,000 campaigns on the federal, state and local level, according to figures provided by the nonprofit.
The glut of money not only helped Democrats go on air with ads early; it could help with last minute messaging and get-out-the-vote efforts that make a difference on Nov. 6.
Hill held up the portal as an antidote to billionaire donors who have increasingly come to dominate the funding of political campaigns. But there’s another advantage, too.
Super PACs, which can raise unlimited money but can’t coordinate with candidates they support, pay more for TV advertising than candidates, who are given cheaper rates by law.
Hill said the money raised through ActBlue has gone up each cycle as technology becomes a bigger part of everyday life.
“People are doing more of their interactions with the world online,” she said. “We’ve seen this kind of pattern, but the numbers are getting bigger.”
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