Democrats running in the most competitive Senate races saw cash flood into their campaigns at unprecedented levels over the past three months.
Filings with the Federal Election Commission posted on Thursday show the extent to which Democrats have overwhelmed their Republican rivals in the money race. In 13 of the closest-watched Senate contests in which Democrats are seeking to flip GOP-held seats, challengers raised a combined $347 million and outspent Republicans by about $150 million.
By comparison, the Republicans in those races pulled in a combined $132.6 million and, on average, burned through money at a much faster rate. While some GOP incumbents started October with more cash on hand than their rivals, they failed to outpace Democratic fundraising in all 13 races.
With Election Day just 18 days away and at least 15.5 million votes already cast nationwide, Republicans are largely on the defensive as they scramble to hold on to their 53-47 Senate majority this year. Democrats, meanwhile, are aiming to pick up at least four GOP-held seats in an effort to win control of the chamber.
The 2020 election cycle has already become the most expensive in U.S. history, with candidates, political parties and outside groups expected to drop nearly $11 billion on federal elections alone by the end of the year.
But the influx of cash into Democratic campaigns in states like South Carolina, Iowa and Georgia underscores the extent to which the party has expanded its path to the Senate majority since beginning the year, when Democrats were eyeing a much more limited battleground that included states like Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina.
ActBlue, the Democratic online fundraising clearinghouse, pulled in nearly $1.5 billion over the past three months, while the GOP equivalent WinRed raised about $620 million.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenFeds investigating if alleged Hunter Biden emails connected to foreign intelligence operation: report Six takeaways from Trump and Biden’s dueling town halls Biden draws sharp contrast with Trump in low-key town hall MORE also announced this week that his presidential campaign and its affiliated groups had raised $383 million in September alone, besting the previous record of $364 million he set in August.
President TrumpDonald John TrumpFeds investigating if alleged Hunter Biden emails connected to foreign intelligence operation: report Six takeaways from Trump and Biden’s dueling town halls Biden draws sharp contrast with Trump in low-key town hall MORE’s campaign and affiliated committees, by comparison, pulled in about $248 million over the course of last month.
No Senate candidate raised more in the third quarter of the year than Jaime Harrison, the Democrat challenging Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPoll: Graham leads Harrison by 6 points in SC Senate race Feinstein’s hug of Lindsey Graham sparks outrage on the left Progressive group: Feinstein must step down as top Democrat on Judiciary panel MORE (R) for his seat in South Carolina. Harrison pulled in a record-setting $57.8 million in the third quarter of the year, with a surge in donations coming in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgBiden draws sharp contrast with Trump in low-key town hall The Senate should confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and quickly The growing scope of the Supreme Court and our democracy MORE’s death last month.
Harrison’s fundraising was driven in part by sheer Democratic anger at Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who is leading efforts to quickly confirm Ginsburg’s replacement, Judge Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettSix takeaways from Trump and Biden’s dueling town halls Biden draws sharp contrast with Trump in low-key town hall Trump fields questions on coronavirus, conspiracy theories in combative town hall MORE, to the Supreme Court.
Graham set a record of his own in the third quarter, raking in just shy of $28.5 million for his reelection campaign. But he was ultimately overwhelmed by Harrison, who outspent him by a 2-to-1 margin over the past three months, $60 million to $28.7 million.
In Maine, where Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsRomney says he’ll vote to put Barrett on Supreme Court McConnell: GOP has the votes to confirm Barrett to Supreme Court this month GOP barrels toward vote on Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination MORE (R) is facing the toughest reelection bid of her more than two-decade career in the Senate, Democrat Sara Gideon pulled in nearly $39.4 million in the period between July 1 and Sept. 30. Collins, meanwhile, raised about $8.3 million.
Democrat Mark Kelly in Arizona raised $36.7 million in the third quarter of the year and spent more than $39 million. His opponent, Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyThe Hill’s Campaign Report: Trump, Biden brace for dueling town halls Kelly raises .7 million in third quarter for Arizona Senate bid Biden, Kelly maintain leads in Arizona MORE (R-Ariz.), pulled in about $20.5 million and spent only about half as much as Kelly, about $19.3 million. Even at that, Kelly ended the quarter with more money in the bank, reporting about $18.8 million in cash on hand to McSally’s $12.2 million.
In Colorado, former Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperBiden hints at opposition to court packing as pressure builds The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Dems ruffle feathers with POTUS fitness bill Greenfield raises record .7 million for Iowa Senate bid MORE (D) outraised Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBiden hints at opposition to court packing as pressure builds Senate Republicans scramble to put Trump at arm’s length The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Dems ruffle feathers with POTUS fitness bill MORE (R) by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. He reported a third-quarter total of nearly $22.6 million, while Gardner raked in about $7.8 million and spent nearly 150 percent of that haul.
And in North Carolina, another core Senate battleground, Democrat Cal Cunningham raised $28.3 million to Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisTed Cruz won’t wear mask to speak to reporters at Capitol The Hill’s Campaign Report: Trump makes last-minute plea to suburban voters Michigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test MORE’s (R) nearly $6.6 million. Tillis still ended the quarter with more cash on hand than Cunningham.
But the spending deficit between the two is staggering; Cunningham dropped just shy of $30.7 million over the past three months to Tillis’s $6.8 million. The race has emerged as the most expensive in U.S. history, with more than $240 million in spending between 2019 and 2020, according to Advertising Analytics, a nonpartisan firm that tracks television and digital spending.
To be sure, the massive Democratic cash hauls don’t guarantee victory. Despite her nearly $37 million third-quarter fundraising total, Democrat Amy McGrath still faces an uphill climb in her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFeinstein’s hug of Lindsey Graham sparks outrage on the left Overnight Health Care: Georgia gets Trump approval for Medicaid work requirements, partial expansion | McConnell shoots down .8 trillion coronavirus deal Pelosi: Mnuchin says Trump will lobby McConnell on big COVID-19 deal MORE (R) in Kentucky, a deep-red state that Trump carried by nearly 30 points in 2016.
Even Harrison, with his record-breaking fundraising haul, faces strong headwinds in his campaign against Graham. Several recent polls have shown a tightening race in South Carolina, but it still remains a deeply conservative state and has not elected a Democrat to the Senate in more than two decades.
Harrison shattered the previous Senate fundraising record of $38.1 million set in the third quarter of 2018 by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who went on to lose his Senate bid to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter’s handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns | FCC to move forward with considering order targeting tech’s liability shield | YouTube expands polices to tackle QAnon Democratic super PAC launches .6M ad blitz supporting Hegar’s bid against Cornyn Facebook, Twitter’s handling of New York Post article raises election night concerns MORE (R-Texas).