Dems raise big to save the Senate
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Senate Democratic candidates have kept up a torrential fundraising pace, giving several in top races a crucial advantage as they fight to hold the upper chamber this fall.

But the GOP’s dominance in super-PAC spending forced some incumbents to spend heavily, narrowing their cash edge over their Republican challengers. 

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Democrats such as Sens. Kay HaganKay HaganPolitics is purple in North Carolina Democrats can win North Carolina just like Jimmy Carter did in 1976 North Carolina will be a big battleground state in 2020 MORE (N.C.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenDems demand Tillerson end State hiring freeze, consult with Congress The Hill Interview: GOP chairman says ‘red flags’ surround Russian cyber firm Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ MORE (N.H.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Comey back in the spotlight after Flynn makes a deal Warner: Every week another shoe drops in Russia investigation MORE (Va.), as well as Georgia candidate Michelle Nunn and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes all posted huge fundraising numbers. 

Hagan might be the quarter’s biggest winner. The first-term senator brought in $3.6 million, more than double the amount her opponent, North Carolina Speaker Thom Tillis (R), raised in the same period. Hagan now has $8.7 million in the bank, more than five times the $1.5 million Tillis has.

Tillis was still fighting to win his primary election this quarter, which cut into his total, but he hasn’t yet shown he has the fundraising mettle to keep up with Hagan’s clip. In such a bellwether state, that disadvantage is going to be even more magnified. Republican groups can come in and make up some of the difference, but the widening gap is enough to give the GOP pause. 

Nunn also posted a huge total, just under $3.5 million, and more than her two Republican opponents combined raised in that period. Nunn has been able to sit on most of her cash while businessman David Perdue (R) and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) spend heavily in the lead-up to next Tuesday’s primary runoff.  

Grimes, too, posted a huge number, raking in $4 million for the quarter and besting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP strategist donates to Alabama Democrat McConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Brent Budowsky: A plea to Alabama voters MORE (R-Ky.) by about $1 million. And because McConnell spent more than he raised over the quarter, Grimes continued to narrow his cash advantage, with $6.2 million in the bank compared to McConnell's $9.8 million.

Other Democrats have been forced to spend heavily to respond to attacks from outside groups, however, and many spent more than they raised. Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuProject Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns You want to recall John McCain? Good luck, it will be impossible CNN producer on new O'Keefe video: Voters are 'stupid,' Trump is 'crazy' MORE (D-La.) outraised her opponent, Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), $2.1 million to $1.6 million. But Landrieu spent $3.4 million in the quarter, and the two are now at nearly equal in cash on hand heading into this fall.

Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichPerez creates advisory team for DNC transition The future of the Arctic 2016’s battle for the Senate: A shifting map MORE (D-Alaska) also had a strong quarter, raising $1.3 million, but he spent $1.9 million in the same period. His cash edge over his most likely opponent, former Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan (R), is down to $400,000 after this quarter, though Sullivan may have to spend more heavily soon to win his August primary.

And while Sen. Mark UdallMark UdallDemocratic primary could upend bid for Colorado seat Picking 2018 candidates pits McConnell vs. GOP groups Gorsuch's critics, running out of arguments, falsely scream 'sexist' MORE (D-Colo.) outraised his GOP opponent, Rep. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDems look to use Moore against GOP McConnell: 'No change of heart' on Roy Moore US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE, by about $200,000, he spent more than he took in. Gardner narrowed Udall's cash advantage to $2.6 million.

Republicans won a few battles as well. Rep. Tom CottonTom CottonGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Grassley offers DACA fix tied to tough enforcement measures Five things senators should ask Tom Cotton if he’s nominated to lead the CIA MORE (R-Ark.) outraised Sen. Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.) by close to $800,000, though he didn’t release his cash-on-hand numbers. Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) outraised Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) as well. And former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R), bolstered by another $1 million from her own pockets, added more to her coffers than did Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) also edged Rep. Bruce BraleyBruce Lowell BraleyOPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward Trump: Ernst wanted 'more seasoning' before entertaining VP offer MORE (D-Iowa) in second-quarter Senate fundraising — but she badly trails him in cash on hand following an expensive primary.

And in the races for seats the GOP is best prepared to flip, candidates continued to pad their coffers. Rep. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSenate women: Rules on harassment must change Congress, here's a CO2-smart tax fix to protect, create jobs Women, Dems leading sexual harassment discussion in Congress: analysis MORE (R-W.Va.) again outraised Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) and now has a more than 3-to-1 cash advantage over her in the open-seat contest. 

Super-PACs can help poor-performing candidates stay afloat during early months. But it’s much better for candidates to have their own sizable campaign bank accounts, making it easier for them to control their own narratives rather than having to rely on outside groups they can’t directly talk with legally. Candidates also get much better television rates when they buy ads.

Democrats argue their big numbers will help them hold the Senate.

"The Democratic cash advantage up and down the map will start to matter more and more as the balance of spending in midterms moves away from the outside groups toward the candidates and committees,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky said.

Republicans admit the cash differential doesn’t help, but they point to Democrats’ fast spending and say they expect a replay in reverse of 2006, when Democrats were outspent but won the Senate.

“History is a funny thing, it repeats,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring, adding that Democrats are “spending like drunken sailors to stay above water."

“Republicans have better candidates, are running better campaigns, but the Democrats' fundraising machine remains their last vestige of their grasp on Senate majority,” he said.

This post was updated at 5:35 p.m.