Five takeaways from new Senate fundraising reports

Five takeaways from new Senate fundraising reports

Vulnerable Senate incumbents are seeing an influx of cash as they build up their campaign bank accounts ahead of tough races in the 2018 midterm elections.

Senate Democrats in particular have kept up their high-dollar fundraising, with the party defending 10 seats in places that President Trump carried in November.

Meanwhile, Democratic challengers are also posting strong fundraising quarters that are on track with Republican incumbents’ figures. But GOP primary challengers looking to take on their party’s incumbents are still behind as they mount upstart challenges.

Here are five takeaways from Senate incumbents' and challengers’ third quarter fundraising reports:

Vulnerable incumbents still raking in millions

Vulnerable incumbents, particularly Democrats, are continuing to build on their significant fundraising hauls from previous quarters. 


Four vulnerable Senate Democrats topped $2 million, with Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillTrump mocked for low attendance at rally Missouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns MORE (D-Mo.) leading the pack with $2.9 million raised in the third quarter. She raised the second-most of any Senate incumbent or candidate, trailing Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHouse Armed Services votes to make Pentagon rename Confederate-named bases in a year Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Liberal veterans group urges Biden to name Duckworth VP MORE (D-Mass.) by less than $50,000.

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers On The Money: Mnuchin, Powell differ over how soon economy will recover | Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress | IRS chief pledges to work on tax code's role in racial wealth disparities IRS chief pledges to work with Congress on examining tax code's role in racial wealth disparities MORE (D-Ohio) raised $2.6 million, while Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden campaign adds staff in three battleground states Clinton, Buttigieg among Democrats set to hold virtual events for Biden Warren top choice for VP for some Black progressives MORE (D-Wis.) raised $2.4 million and Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Cure Violence Global founder Gary Slutkin says violence and epidemics follow same patterns; Global death toll surpasses half a million 21 senators urge Pentagon against military use to curb nationwide protests Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge MORE Jr. (D-Pa.) brought in $2.2 million.

While Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has yet to announce whether or not he’ll run for the upper chamber against Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world MORE (D-Fla.), Nelson still raised nearly $1.8 million. Sens. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (D-N.D.), Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (D-Ind.) and Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterBipartisan Senate group offers bill to strengthen watchdog law after Trump firings Senate confirms Trump's watchdog for coronavirus funds Montana barrels toward blockbuster Senate fight MORE (D-Mont.) each raised more than $1 million.

Vulnerable GOP incumbents are also raking in cash, even as they face primary challenges and tough general elections down the road. Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Nev.) raised $1.17 million, while Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE’s (R-Ariz.) raised $1.1 million, according to Washington Examiner

Dem challengers outraising or keeping pace with GOP incumbents

Unseating an incumbent is always a tough feat, since they typically have fundraising advantages and better name recognition. But many Democratic challengers are keeping up with their incumbent GOP rivals. 

Heller was narrowly outpaced by his likely Democratic opponent, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who pulled in $1.19 million, according to Las Vegas Review-Journal. Heller still maintains a substantial cash on hand advantage of about $3 million.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who is running to unseat Flake, raised $1.08 million, which was slightly behind the GOP senator’s haul. But Sinema has a larger balance, nearly $4.2 million compared with Flake’s $3.4 million.

While Texas isn’t seen as having a competitive race, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump administration grants funding extension for Texas testing sites Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down GOP lawmakers join social media app billed as alternative to Big Tech MORE’s (R-Texas) likely Democratic competitor is still raising money at a high clip. Cruz, who raised $1.76 million, outpaced Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), but only by about $52,000. The Texas GOP senator still has a larger cash advantage with nearly $3 million more in his campaign account.

Alabama Dem sees influx of cash, lags in polls

Alabama’s Senate seat is expected to remain in GOP hands, but after former judge Roy Moore advanced out of the GOP runoff, Democrats are mulling whether they have a chance in the deep-red state.

Moore, who was suspended twice as a state Supreme Court chief justice, filed a pre-runoff fundraising report where he raised more than $960,000 between the end of July and early September. He ended with $285,000 in his campaign account on Sept. 6.

His Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, had low sums of money prior to the Democratic primary, but has seen a surge in donations as Democrats eye the seat. The former U.S. attorney raised more than $1.3 million from the end of July to the end of September. He has $1 million cash on hand.

Polls have shown Moore leading Jones by a single-digit margin, but a recent Fox News poll has been an outlier, with the two candidates tied.

Moore will have the chance to boost his fundraising with a Washington fundraiser in early November with headliners including Sens. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate rejects Paul proposal on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democratic proposal to extend 0 unemployment checks Rand Paul urges Fauci to provide 'more optimism' on coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) and Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate panel votes 21-1 to back Justice IG measure over Graham objections Senators offer bill to expand charitable giving tax break Overnight Energy: Senate passes major lands conservation bill | Mnuchin ordered to give Native American tribes full stimulus funding | Key Republican jeopardizes Trump consumer safety nominee MORE (R-Utah), who recently endorsed him.

Fundraising gives candidates edge in crowded primaries 

Primary season won’t start until next year, but fundraising could help elevate some candidates in crowded primaries.

In Indiana, GOP Rep. Luke Messer raised about $734,000, compared with GOP Rep. Todd Rokita, who raised about $433,000. Messer has a slight cash on hand advantage, but has a debt of about $93,000. This comes after Rokita outpaced Messer nearly 2-to-1 in the last fundraising quarter. Republican Mark Hurt is way behind with only $3,067 cash on hand.

In Montana, state auditor Matt Rosendale (R) raised more than $413,000, while businessman Troy Downing raised more than $311,000. Rosendale has the backing of Great America Alliance (GAA), the pro-Trump outside group with ties to former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon. State Sen. Al Olszewski (R) was further behind with about $127,000. Retired Judge Russell Fagg announced this month and won’t need to file a fundraising report for the third quarter. 

In West Virginia, GOP Rep. Evan Jenkins hauled in about $220,000, but it remains to be seen how much state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) has raised. Morrisey could receive a bump now that he’s endorsed by GAA.

All GOP candidates are behind in fundraising compared with the Democratic senators they’re trying to unseat.

Insurgent candidates lagging in cash amid challenges to incumbents

Bannon has vowed to play in GOP primaries, which could give them an extra boost in trying to unseat incumbents. So far, these upstart candidates underperformed against the incumbents when it comes to fundraising.

In Arizona, former state Sen. Kelli Ward (R) raised just shy of $700,000 this quarter, a sizable uptick from her previous fundraising. But Ward, who unsuccessfully ran against Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJuan Williams: Time for boldness from Biden Democrats lead in three battleground Senate races: poll Republican Scott Taylor wins Virginia primary, to face Elaine Luria in rematch MORE (R-Ariz.) last year, ends September with less than $300,000 in her campaign account. That’ll be tough to compete with Flake in the primary or Sinema in the general election, each of whom has millions in their accounts.

Republican Danny Tarkanian will likely run into a similar problem challenging Heller in Nevada. Fresh off a failed House bid, Tarkanian raised a little more than $300,000 and has about $278,000 cash on hand. The son of the late University of Nevada, Las Vegas basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian has run for office several times, including a Senate run in 2010.

Bannon has formally endorsed Ward and campaigned with her in Arizona last week. The Breitbart News head has yet to formally weigh in on Tarkanian and Nevada’s Senate race, but support from Bannon and GAA could give both candidates the financial boost they need to stay competitive.

Updated at 6:08 p.m.