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 Ruthven HaganWarning signs flash for Tillis in North Carolina Tillis trails Democratic challenger by 7 points in North Carolina poll North Carolina businessman will challenge Tillis in GOP primary MORE (N.C.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Energy: Advisory panel pushes park service to privatize campgrounds | Dems urge Perry to keep lightbulb efficiency rules | Marshall Islands declares national climate crisis Democrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Overnight Health Care — Presented by Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing — Planned Parenthood charges into 2020 | PhRMA CEO warns against Pelosi drug pricing bill | Medicaid work requirements costing states millions MORE (N.H.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games Senate Intelligence report triggers new calls for action on election security Senate Intel report urges action to prevent Russian meddling in 2020 election 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 McConnellFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Republicans wrestle with impeachment strategy Mattis warns 'ISIS will resurge' without U.S. pressure on Syria 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 Loretta LandrieuCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world 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 BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world 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 Emery UdallPoll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Colorado candidates vying to take on Gardner warn Hickenlooper they won't back down MORE (D-Colo.) outraised his GOP opponent, Rep. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerRepublicans wrestle with impeachment strategy McConnell tightlipped as impeachment furor grows Gardner dodges questions about Trump's call for Biden probe 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 CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonBipartisan senators want federal plan for sharing more info on supply chain threats On The Money: Fed officials saw rising risk of recession | Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz blast NBA for 'outrageous' response to China | Prospects dim for trade breakthrough with China Ocasio-Cortez, Ted Cruz join colleagues blasting NBA for 'outrageous' response to China MORE (R-Ark.) outraised Sen. Mark PryorMark Lunsford 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 Braley2020 caucuses pose biggest challenge yet for Iowa's top pollster OPINION | Tax reform, not Trump-McConnell feuds, will make 2018 a win for GOP Ten years later, House Dems reunite and look forward 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 CapitoGaetz: Some lawmakers reviewed transcript at White House On The Money: Trump takes aim at China in UN address | Consumer confidence fell as trade tensions rose | Senate proposes billion for Trump border wall Senate proposes billion for Trump border wall 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.