GOP Senate hopefuls race to catch up with Dems

GOP Senate hopefuls race to catch up with Dems
© Greg Nash

Democratic Senate incumbents rapidly built up massive campaign accounts in the early months of 2018, while some Republican candidates slowly improved their fundraising. 

Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillCalif. gov candidates battle for second place Senate panel advances Trump's CIA nominee Five votes to watch in fight over Trump's CIA nominee MORE (Mo.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenators offer tax bill aimed at helping first responders McConnell: Midterms will be 'very challenging' for GOP Trump congratulates 'special guy' Barletta on win in Pennsylvania MORE Jr. (Pa.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Facebook, Google struggle to block terrorist content | Cambridge Analytica declares bankruptcy in US | Company exposed phone location data | Apple starts paying back taxes to Ireland Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump hits federally funded clinics with new abortion restrictions Senate Dems call for probe into why Trump has not issued Russia sanctions MORE (Ohio) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTed Cruz and Bill Nelson give NASA a reality check on privatizing International Space Station Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers MORE (Fla.) — each of whom is running in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpWH aides intentionally compose Trump tweets with grammatical mistakes: report Holder: DOJ, FBI should reject Trump's requests Ex-Trump campaign adviser rips claims of spy in campaign: It's 'embarrassing' MORE won in 2016 — all posted impressive hauls in the first quarter of 2018 that boosted each senator’s cash on hand to more than $10 million. Meanwhile, strong quarters from top GOP recruits like Reps. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyOvernight Defense: Over 500 amendments proposed for defense bill | Measures address transgender troops, Yemen war | Trump taps acting VA chief as permanent secretary Arizona Senate GOP candidate paid Gorka ,240 to appear at event Trump’s White House shakes off boogeyman Roy Moore with West Virginia win MORE (Ariz.) and Kevin CramerKevin John CramerChao names participants selected for drone pilot program The Hill's Morning Report: Trump’s Cabinet mess Make-or-break moment for EPA chief Pruitt MORE (N.D.) position them well to compete in high-profile races.

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There are exceptions to the rule — Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerKennedy retirement rumors shift into overdrive McConnell: Midterms will be 'very challenging' for GOP Singer Jason Mraz: Too much political 'combat' in Washington MORE (R-Nev.) was significantly outraised again by his likely Democratic opponent, and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinBlankenship third-party bid worries Senate GOP Overnight Energy: Feds eye rolling back Alaska wildlife rule | Park service releases climate report | Paper mills blamed for water contamination | Blankenship plans third-party Senate run The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Frenzy over Kennedy retirement rumors | Trump challenges DOJ MORE (D-W.Va.) pulled in less than a million dollars in the first quarter for the third quarter in a row.

Overall, most Republicans facing Democratic incumbents are still lagging behind the senators they hope to face. But, by and large, Republican fundraising is starting to pick up even as it’s clear that the left will have far greater cash reserves for the general election.

Early figures show that red-state Democrats are stockpiling millions of dollars ahead of their competitive reelection races. There are 10 Democratic incumbents running in states that Trump won in 2016.

McCaskill leads the pack with $3.9 million raised, followed closely behind by Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinMcConnell: Midterms will be 'very challenging' for GOP Vukmir gets boost with Wisconsin Senate GOP primary endorsement  GOP senate candidate dismisses 'fake outrage' over remarks against Democratic veterans MORE (D-Wis.), who raised $3.7 million and now has $7.8 million banked away. That bank account will be helpful for the Wisconsin Democrat as she defends against millions in outside spending.

Brown raised $3.2 million last quarter and now has almost $12 million banked away to defend his seat. Trump won Ohio by 8 points.

Nelson, who has to contend with deep-pocketed Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), hauled in $3.2 million during the quarter. He has $10.5 million in the bank to try to keep pace with Scott, who is expected to self-fund much of his campaign.

Casey hit the $10 million mark in cash on hand after raising $2.2 million last quarter. Both Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyVoters Dems need aren't impressed by anti-waterboarding showboating Overnight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers MORE (D-Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOvernight Defense: Senate confirms Haspel as CIA chief | Trump offers Kim 'protections' if he gives up nukes | Dem amendments target Trump military parade Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers target Chinese tech giants | Dems move to save top cyber post | Trump gets a new CIA chief | Ryan delays election security briefing | Twitter CEO meets lawmakers Senate confirms Haspel to head CIA MORE (D-N.D.) raised about $1.6 million, with the Indiana senator having $6.4 million in the bank, while Heitkamp has about $5.3 million stashed away.

Manchin is the only Democratic incumbent to raise less than a million as he looks to defend his seat in a state that Trump won by more than 40 points. He pulled in $949,000 in the first three months of the year, but still ends March with a sizable $5.4 million in the bank.

Manchin will almost certainly win the Democratic nomination, but he’ll need to start tapping into his account once the brutal three-way GOP primary wraps up on May 8. None of the three major Republican candidates have released their first-quarter fundraising hauls yet.

“Senate Democrats’ strong fundraising reflects the wave of grass-roots support and enthusiasm that will help propel our campaigns to victory in November,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein.

Things look more dire for Republicans in Nevada, where Heller raised $1.1 million in the first three months of the year. That’s an improvement from last quarter, when he raised just $820,000. But he was again outraised by a 2-to-1 margin by his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenDems urge Trump to reinstate top cyber post Overnight Energy: Interior sending officers to southern border | Dem AGs want EPA to halt plan restricting use of science | EPA documents show secrecy push How endangered GOP Sen. Dean Heller is seeking to hang on MORE, who brought in $2.6 million and ended March with $3.5 million on hand.

Heller still holds a cash advantage over Rosen, with $4.4 million in the bank. And he caught a big break in his primary fight when Republican Danny Tarkanian dropped out of the primary, deciding to run instead for a House seat at Trump’s urging.

But Heller still faces a steep uphill fight to hold his seat in Nevada, which Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton backs Georgia governor hopeful on eve of primary Pressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn Press: Why Trump should thank FBI MORE won by 2 points in 2016.

Republicans can see some bright spots in the Senate map.

Both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania feature tough races for Republicans running against deep-pocketed incumbents, but GOP fundraising is moving in the right direction.

Wisconsin Republicans Kevin Nicholson and Leah Vukmir, who are competing to face off against Baldwin, each bumped up their fundraising by $200,000 from last quarter. And Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaTrump endorses Arkansas governor's reelection bid ahead of primary Trump's infrastructure plan hits a dead end Trump congratulates 'special guy' Barletta on win in Pennsylvania MORE, who’s expected to win the party nomination to take on Casey, more than doubled his dismal haul from the end of 2017 to raise nearly $1.3 million this past quarter. 

Cramer, who was recently recruited to run against Heitkamp, made a strong showing of his own in the first quarter. Despite announcing his Senate campaign in the middle of the fundraising quarter, Cramer raised a little over $1 million.

Candidates on both sides are raking in cash in Texas, Arizona and Tennessee, three red states where Democrats are looking to expand the map.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) raised a jaw-dropping $6.7 million in the first quarter, more than doubling a strong showing by his opponent, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenators near deal on sexual harassment policy change Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Five Republican run-offs to watch in Texas MORE (R-Texas), who raised $3.2 million. Both have about $8 million banked away in what will still be a difficult state for Democrats.

In Tennessee’s race for the seat now held by retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn Corker turns downs Trump's offer to be ambassador to Australia Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (R), former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) pulled in $3.2 million, which includes a $1.4 million loan from the candidate. His willingness to self-fund another campaign is a huge boon for Democrats, who can focus their money on defending the Democratic incumbents running in Trump states.

Bredesen’s likely competitor, Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnTrump to hold Nashville rally amid efforts to boost GOP Senate hopeful The Hill's 12:30 Report Singer Jason Mraz: Too much political 'combat' in Washington MORE (R-Tenn.), also had another strong showing. Blackburn raised $2 million — without any loans — and has $6 million cash on hand.

Arizona’s open seat presents more of an opportunity for Democrats. In the race for the seat now held by retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn Sarah Sanders: ‘Democrats are losing their war against women in the Trump administration’ Trump yuks it up to deflect Senate critics MORE (R), Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) raised $2.5 million and has $6.7 million banked away. McSally raised $2.8 million to bring her cash on hand to $3.2 million.

While Sinema will cruise to the general, McSally faces a potentially tough GOP primary against former state Sen. Kelli Ward and controversial former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who will push the primary to the right. Both raised around $500,000 last quarter, according to local media reports.

But even as some Republicans raise sizable hauls, top GOP leaders admit that Democratic Senate campaigns are better positioned in fundraising.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators near deal on sexual harassment policy change Blankenship third-party bid worries Senate GOP Overnight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' MORE (R-Ky.) admitted as much in an interview with The New York Times in February, telling the paper “I concede the fundraising problem” but chalking that up to the challenge of running against incumbents.

Republican candidates could face trouble in Indiana, where candidates spar in a three-way primary for the right to take on Donnelly. Rep. Luke MesserAllen (Luke) Lucas MesserGOP governors sign letter supporting Nobel Peace Prize for Trump These three Democrats are no sure thing in November The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by FICO — Paul Ryan’s rough ride MORE raised a paltry $389,000 last quarter. Even though he still has $1.9 million in the bank, the latest haul is his smallest in any quarter since he announced.

Neither of Messer’s primary opponents, Rep. Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaThese three Democrats are no sure thing in November The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by FICO — Paul Ryan’s rough ride Five takeaways from Tuesday’s primary fights MORE or businessman Mike Braun, have released their fundraising totals.

In Montana, two GOP candidates — state auditor Matt Rosendale and retired district judge Russ Fagg — were both well under Democratic Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThis week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure Overnight Defense: Over 500 amendments proposed for defense bill | Measures address transgender troops, Yemen war | Trump taps acting VA chief as permanent secretary Not only do we need to support veterans, but their caregivers, too MORE’s $2 million haul. Both Republicans raised slightly less than $320,000.

There are a handful of candidates who have yet to publicly release their fundraising numbers — including the three candidates in West Virginia’s GOP primary. Republicans are hoping for a sizable haul from Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who’s considered a top recruit but has struggled to match McCaskill in fundraising.

Hawley raised just shy of a million dollars last quarter, while McCaskill outdid his fundraising by three times over the same period. Hawley’s previous fundraising haul had left some Republicans openly worrying about his ability to compete against McCaskill, who most view as one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats on the ballot.

But Republicans are optimistic that Hawley can step up his fundraising, especially with help from the White House. Trump recently held a fundraiser in Missouri, while Vice President Pence’s political action committee has contributed to Hawley.

Republicans are ecstatic about the strong hauls from candidates in Arizona and Tennessee but stress the candidates looking to knock off Democrats in red states need to up their fundraising.

“It’s a mixed bag, it’s a different story in every race across the map,” a Republican strategist said about GOP fundraising. “It’d be much better if everyone was doing well in fundraising, but the reality is they’re not.

“Arizona and Tennessee are both important states, but neither are as big as Missouri.”

--This article was updated at 4:48 p.m.