WASHINGTON ― The Democratic Party won’t need to worry about a shortage of campaign money this year as it seeks to regain control of both the Senate and the House this November. That’s because its candidates in key competitive races are already posting strong fundraising numbers.
According to a pair of analyses of campaign finance data through June 30 by the Campaign Finance Institute, Democratic challengers are in one of the strongest fundraising positions of the past decade for either party at this point in an election. The fundraising totals posted by these candidates puts the party where it wants to be months before the election.
Democrats need to win five Senate seats for a majority and a far more difficult 30 in the House.
Who has the most money by no means determines which party will win an election. For House races in the 2016 election, the strength of fundraising by Democratic challengers, especially in comparison to poor fundraising by Republican challengers, is partly related to the fact that the large Republican majority means that there are few remaining Democratic-held seats for them to contest. That being said, the numbers put up by Democratic challengers show a strong effort by the party to win, especially in the Senate.
Republican Party incumbents may hold the advantage in House races, as is normal for incumbents running for election, but Democratic challengers are putting up high numbers. These Democratic challengers report, on average, $240,669 in receipts, the highest average for Democrats in any election since 2004. Democrats running against 24 of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents posted an average of $1.2 million raised. That might be short of the $2.2 million average raised by Republican incumbents, but signals a high level of competition in those races.
The strength of Democratic House candidate fundraising is even more evident in the 40 races in which no incumbent is running. Of the 40 open seat races, 17 seats are currently held by Democrats and 23 by Republicans. Democrats running for these seats raised an average of $635,418, compared to the Republican average of $368,158, which is equivalent to the party’s ten year average. The Democratic average, meanwhile, is nearly double the average amount the party’s open seat candidates raised from 2004 through 2014.
That disparity increases when looking at the 11 most competitive open seat races. In these contests, the Democratic candidate boasts an average $1 million raised, compared to about $500,000 for the Republicans.
The positive fundraising outlook for Democrats gets even sunnier when looking at Senate challengers. According to the Campaign Finance Institute, “The average Democratic challenger raised more than one-third as much as the average Republican incumbent through June 30. This was the highest challenger percentage for either party at this stage of the race going back through 2004.”
In four of the six most competitive Senate races, the Democratic candidate holds the fundraising advantage. Democratic candidates lead in fundraising in Illinois, New Hampshire, Nevada and Wisconsin, while Republicans lead in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, no Republican challenger to a Democratic incumbent has raised more than $700,000. And Democrats’ fundraising numbers don’t even include the $9 million cash on hand that former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh will bring into the Indiana Senate race.