Democratic Senate candidates had another monster fundraising quarter, adding to their huge war chests despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that prompted fears of lackluster enthusiasm ahead of the November elections.
In Senate contests in key states like South Carolina, Maine, North Carolina and Montana, Democratic challengers announced eye-popping hauls that are largely thanks to a Trump-fueled wave of progressive energy and small-dollar donor cash.
In South Carolina, Jaime Harrison reported raising a record-breaking $13.9 million in his race against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill. The haul is almost double the record $7.3 million he reported for the first three months of 2020. It’s also more than any Senate candidate in South Carolina from either party raised for their entire campaign before this cycle.
In rural Montana, where a dollar will go a long way compared to more expensive urban political advertising markets, Gov. Steve Bullock announced that he’d raised a whopping $7.7 million, more than double his haul in the first quarter. Bullock is hoping to oust Trump-friendly incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines.
In North Carolina, the relatively little-known Cal Cunningham, a military veteran and former state senator, said he’d raised $7.4 million in the second quarter. He, too, topped his first-quarter haul by $3 million. He will face Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, a staunch supporter of Trump, in the general election.
And in Maine, former state House Speaker Sara Gideon, a top Democratic target, revealed she raised a whopping $9 million in the second quarter. Gideon, the most likely Democratic challenger to GOP Sen. Susan Collins, is set to receive an additional $3.5 million if she wins the Democratic primary later this month.
Amy McGrath, Mark Kelly, and John Hickenlooper ― the Democratic Senate candidates in Kentucky, Arizona and Colorado, respectively ― have not yet announced their second-quarter hauls, but they are also likely to exceed expectations.
None of the GOP candidates up for reelection have released their fundraising numbers yet, but they are expected to lag substantially behind their Democratic opponents.
“These latest record-breaking numbers reflect the growing interest in these Senate battlegrounds and an unprecedented motivation to hold Republicans accountable,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Lauren Passalacqua said in a statement. “Republican incumbents in Washington are still trying to take away health care from their constituents in the middle of a pandemic and standing by while the president divides the nation and exacerbates a public health and economic crisis. Voters have had enough.”
Republicans hold a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, and with Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) facing a tough reelection fight, Democrats likely need to win at least four seats to reclaim the majority.
Trump’s steady slide in the polls, which can be attributed to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and racist appeals to white supporters, has only increased Democrats’ chances of winning the upper chamber.
The state of the race for Senate control has alarmed top Republican lawmakers, who keep pleading without success for the president to change course.
“Right now, obviously, Trump has a problem with the middle of the electorate, with independents, and they’re the people who are undecided in national elections,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters last month. “I think he can win those back, but it’ll probably require not only a message that deals with substance and policy, but I think a message that conveys, perhaps, a different tone.”
Even Graham, one of Trump’s most stalwart defenders (at least after he lost his bid for the 2016 GOP presidential primary), broke with the president on Monday after he lashed out at Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only Black Cup Series driver, and criticized the auto racing league’s decision to ban the Confederate flag from its events.
“I don’t think Bubba Wallace has anything to apologize for,” Graham said on Fox News radio. “You saw the best in NASCAR. They all rallied to Bubba’s side. I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude rather than being worried it’s a hoax.”