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 McCaskillDems gain momentum 50 days before midterms CBS Poll: Missouri, Montana Senate races in dead heats Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski MORE (Mo.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyObama to hit campaign trail in Pa. for gubernatorial, Senate candidates Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security Five biggest surprises in midterm fight MORE Jr. (Pa.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownDark money group targets Brown over previous domestic violence claim Biz groups fracture after Dodd-Frank rollback Five biggest surprises in midterm fight MORE (Ohio) and Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonJuan Williams: America warms up to socialism Dems gain momentum 50 days before midterms Jeb Bush campaigns with Rick Scott in Florida MORE (Fla.) — each of whom is running in a state President TrumpDonald John TrumpOver 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: study CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him Cohn: Jamie Dimon would be 'phenomenal' president 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 McSallyKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates McSally supports having Kavanaugh, accuser testify Poll: Sinema leads McSally by 7 points in Arizona Senate race MORE (Ariz.) and Kevin CramerKevin John CramerKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Overnight Health Care: Work rules set to slash Medicaid rolls | Health groups sue over non-ObamaCare plans | Study finds opioid abuse only down slightly in 2017 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 HellerPoll: Dean Heller running even against Democratic challenger Dems gain momentum 50 days before midterms California was once the epicenter of pollution — time to learn from its green transition MORE (R-Nev.) was significantly outraised again by his likely Democratic opponent, and Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow 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 BaldwinPrimary turnout soars in 2018 with Dems leading charge Senate rankings: 10 seats most likely to flip Five biggest surprises in midterm fight 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 DonnellyKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (D-Ind.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow 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 RosenOvernight Health Care: Opioid legislation passes overwhelmingly | DOJ backs Cigna-Express Scripts merger | Senate passes ban on pharmacy gag clauses Poll: Dean Heller running even against Democratic challenger Dems gain momentum 50 days before midterms 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 ClintonTrump to declassify controversial text messages, documents related to Russia probe Hypocrisy in Kavanaugh case enough to set off alarms in DC Clinton: Hard to ignore 'racial subtext of virtually everything Trump says' 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 BarlettaObama to hit campaign trail in Pa. for gubernatorial, Senate candidates Poll: Pennsylvania Democrats surging with double-digit leads Poll: Dems hold double-digit leads in Pennsylvania races for governor, Senate 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 CruzGrassley agrees to second Kavanaugh hearing after GOP members revolt FEC: Cruz campaign didn't violate rules with fundraising letter labeled ‘summons’ Cruz criticizes O'Rourke on Dallas shooting: Wish he wasn't 'so quick to always blame the police officer' 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 CorkerMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow 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 BlackburnKavanaugh becomes September surprise for midterm candidates Poll: Democrat Bredesen leads GOP's Blackburn by 5 points in Tennessee Senate race Dems gain momentum 50 days before midterms 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 FlakeGrassley agrees to second Kavanaugh hearing after GOP members revolt Murkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday 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 McConnellMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify McConnell rips Democrats for handling of Kavanaugh nomination Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow 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 MesserFreedom Caucus members see openings in leadership Republicans top Dems at charity golf game Immigration overhaul on life support in the House 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 RokitaHillicon Valley: California eyes tough net neutrality law | Trump taps chief for DHS tech research arm | Huawei hits back at US restrictions | Republican wants Google antitrust probe | Ex-cyber worker charged with trying to sell stolen tech House Republican urges regulators to probe Google for antitrust violations These three Democrats are no sure thing in November 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) TesterCBS Poll: Missouri, Montana Senate races in dead heats Dems play waiting game with Collins and Murkowski Watchdog groups to file complaint against Montana candidate alleging coordination with NRA 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.