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McGrath raises nearly $11 million in third quarter for bid to unseat McConnell

Amy McGrath, the Democrat who nearly flipped a conservative House district in Kentucky in 2018, raised nearly $11 million in the past three months for her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden to meet Monday with bipartisan lawmakers about infrastructure 100 business executives discuss how to combat new voting rules: report Arkansas governor says 'divisive' Trump attacks on GOP officials are 'unhelpful' MORE (R-Ky.), her campaign said.

McGrath pulled in $10.7 million in the third fundraising quarter, the first since announcing her Senate campaign in July. That haul is made up of more than 299,000 contributions, her campaign said. The average donation size was $36.

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It’s a staggering haul for any Senate candidate, and especially a nonincumbent, exceeding the quarterly hauls of several presidential candidates. By comparison, Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally Top Democrat calling for expansion of child care support When it comes to the Iran nuclear deal, what's a moderate Democrat to do? MORE (D-N.J.) raised $6 million for his White House bid, while Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharLobbying world New small business coalition to urge action on antitrust policy Bottom line MORE (D-Minn.) raised $4.8 million. 

It’s only slightly less than the $11.6 million raised by Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden to meet Monday with bipartisan lawmakers about infrastructure Pelosi planned on retiring until Trump won election: report How Kamala Harris can find the solution for the migration crisis MORE (D-Calif.), one of the most well-known Democrats in the presidential field, in the past three months.

That financial haul is likely to put her in a strong position to take on McConnell next year. The top Senate Republican raised $2.3 million in the third quarter and has more than $9 million in the bank, his campaign told The Hill. He pulled in $1.8 million in the first quarter and another $2.5 million in the second.

Candidates for federal office are required to disclose their third-quarter fundraising hauls to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by Oct. 15. 

McGrath’s massive fundraising number signals just how eager Democrats are to oust McConnell in 2020. But if it’s a measure of Democratic enthusiasm, it’s also an acknowledgement of the uphill battle the party will face in trying to defeat a 35-year incumbent and one of the most influential Republicans in the country.

McConnell won reelection in 2014 by a nearly 15-point margin. And Kentucky has remained firmly in Republicans’ corner. President TrumpDonald TrumpGaetz was denied meeting with Trump: CNN Federal Reserve chair: Economy would have been 'so much worse' without COVID-19 relief bills Police in California city declare unlawful assembly amid 'white lives matter' protest MORE carried the state in 2016 by nearly 30 points, and all but one of Kentucky’s six House seats remain in GOP hands.

McGrath, a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot, rose to prominence in 2018 during her bid to unseat four-term Rep. Andy BarrAndy BarrFed to form committee focused on climate risks to financial system Financial regulators home in on climate risks House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit MORE (R-Ky.) in Kentucky’s 6th District. That race, rated a toss-up by most election handicappers, ultimately ended in Barr’s favor. He defeated McGrath by little more than 3 points.

But that race also raised McGrath’s political profile and made her a top recruit to challenge McConnell for his Senate seat in 2020. 

There are signs that the race between McGrath and McConnell could be close. A July poll conducted by pollster Fabrizio Ward for AARP showed McConnell with 47 percent support and McGrath with 46 percent support, a statistical tie given the survey’s 4-point margin of error.

Mark Nickolas, McGrath’s campaign manager, touted that poll and the candidate’s fundraising haul on Thursday as a sign of challenges to come for McConnell. 

“Mitch McConnell has never faced an opponent like Amy McGrath,” Nickolas said in a statement. “Not only does a new independent poll show the race tied, but more than a quarter-million grassroots donations – from all 120 Kentucky counties – have provided us a record-shattering first quarter of nearly $11 million to take down McConnell and his self-serving special interest allies. Change is coming.”

Kevin Golden, McConnell's campaign manager, suggested that McGrath's fundraising was powered by donors outside of Kentucky, dismissing the financial haul as insignificant given McConnell's influence in the state and in Washington.

“Far-left liberal activists from New York and California absolutely hate the fact that Kentucky's values, culture and priorities are put at the front of the line as long as Mitch McConnell leads the Senate," he said. "They can flood her campaign with millions but they can't vote in Kentucky."

--Updated at 4:22 p.m.