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Democrats see cash floodgates open ahead of Election Day

Democrats running in the most competitive Senate races saw cash flood into their campaigns at unprecedented levels over the past three months.

Filings with the Federal Election Commission posted on Thursday show the extent to which Democrats have overwhelmed their Republican rivals in the money race. In 13 of the closest-watched Senate contests in which Democrats are seeking to flip GOP-held seats, challengers raised a combined $347 million and outspent Republicans by about $150 million.

By comparison, the Republicans in those races pulled in a combined $132.6 million and, on average, burned through money at a much faster rate. While some GOP incumbents started October with more cash on hand than their rivals, they failed to outpace Democratic fundraising in all 13 races.

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With Election Day just 18 days away and at least 15.5 million votes already cast nationwide, Republicans are largely on the defensive as they scramble to hold on to their 53-47 Senate majority this year. Democrats, meanwhile, are aiming to pick up at least four GOP-held seats in an effort to win control of the chamber.

The 2020 election cycle has already become the most expensive in U.S. history, with candidates, political parties and outside groups expected to drop nearly $11 billion on federal elections alone by the end of the year.

But the influx of cash into Democratic campaigns in states like South Carolina, Iowa and Georgia underscores the extent to which the party has expanded its path to the Senate majority since beginning the year, when Democrats were eyeing a much more limited battleground that included states like Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina.

ActBlue, the Democratic online fundraising clearinghouse, pulled in nearly $1.5 billion over the past three months, while the GOP equivalent WinRed raised about $620 million.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays MORE also announced this week that his presidential campaign and its affiliated groups had raised $383 million in September alone, besting the previous record of $364 million he set in August.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE’s campaign and affiliated committees, by comparison, pulled in about $248 million over the course of last month.

No Senate candidate raised more in the third quarter of the year than Jaime Harrison, the Democrat challenging Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamLet's give thanks to Republican defenders of Democracy Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R) for his seat in South Carolina. Harrison pulled in a record-setting $57.8 million in the third quarter of the year, with a surge in donations coming in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgCardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 Cuomo blames new conservative majority for High Court's COVID-19 decision Supreme Court blocks New York coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship MORE’s death last month.

Harrison’s fundraising was driven in part by sheer Democratic anger at Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee who is leading efforts to quickly confirm Ginsburg’s replacement, Judge Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettCardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 Cuomo blames new conservative majority for High Court's COVID-19 decision Supreme Court blocks New York coronavirus restrictions on houses of worship MORE, to the Supreme Court.

Graham set a record of his own in the third quarter, raking in just shy of $28.5 million for his reelection campaign. But he was ultimately overwhelmed by Harrison, who outspent him by a 2-to-1 margin over the past three months, $60 million to $28.7 million.

In Maine, where Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers Trump transition order follows chorus of GOP criticism The Memo: Trump election loss roils right MORE (R) is facing the toughest reelection bid of her more than two-decade career in the Senate, Democrat Sara Gideon pulled in nearly $39.4 million in the period between July 1 and Sept. 30. Collins, meanwhile, raised about $8.3 million.

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Democrat Mark Kelly in Arizona raised $36.7 million in the third quarter of the year and spent more than $39 million. His opponent, Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyTrump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol McSally's final floor speech: 'I gave it my all, and I left it all on the field' MORE (R-Ariz.), pulled in about $20.5 million and spent only about half as much as Kelly, about $19.3 million. Even at that, Kelly ended the quarter with more money in the bank, reporting about $18.8 million in cash on hand to McSally’s $12.2 million.

In Colorado, former Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperDemocrats frustrated, GOP jubilant in Senate fight Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  MORE (D) outraised Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerHillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities Democrats vent to Schumer over Senate majority failure MORE (R) by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. He reported a third-quarter total of nearly $22.6 million, while Gardner raked in about $7.8 million and spent nearly 150 percent of that haul.

And in North Carolina, another core Senate battleground, Democrat Cal Cunningham raised $28.3 million to Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisNorth Carolina — still purple but up for grabs Team Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters Loeffler isolating after possible COVID-19 infection MORE’s (R) nearly $6.6 million. Tillis still ended the quarter with more cash on hand than Cunningham.

But the spending deficit between the two is staggering; Cunningham dropped just shy of $30.7 million over the past three months to Tillis’s $6.8 million. The race has emerged as the most expensive in U.S. history, with more than $240 million in spending between 2019 and 2020, according to Advertising Analytics, a nonpartisan firm that tracks television and digital spending.

To be sure, the massive Democratic cash hauls don’t guarantee victory. Despite her nearly $37 million third-quarter fundraising total, Democrat Amy McGrath still faces an uphill climb in her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAs Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on Harris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year MORE (R) in Kentucky, a deep-red state that Trump carried by nearly 30 points in 2016.

Even Harrison, with his record-breaking fundraising haul, faces strong headwinds in his campaign against Graham. Several recent polls have shown a tightening race in South Carolina, but it still remains a deeply conservative state and has not elected a Democrat to the Senate in more than two decades.

Harrison shattered the previous Senate fundraising record of $38.1 million set in the third quarter of 2018 by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who went on to lose his Senate bid to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (R-Texas).