Several vulnerable Democratic incumbent senators are raking in huge sums for their re-election campaigns, led by Georgia’s Raphael Warnock, who is on pace to bring in a record first-quarter haul.
They are using their ample funds to buy and reserve TV time at the lowest unit rate amid an expected sea of outside group spending.
Warnock raised $13.6 million from January through March and had $25.6 million in cash, his campaign announced Thursday ahead of tonight’s deadline for filing first-quarter fundraising reports.
Sen. Mark Kelly’s been running TV ads since February and is likely to have enough money to stay on the air through the November election.
The Arizona Democrat’s campaign announced a haul of $11.3 million in the first quarter of 2022, with $23.2 million in cash on hand on March 31. He’s already bought nearly $5 million worth of air time, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), have also turned in strong fundraising numbers and hit the airwaves.
Democrats are banking on this money to help overcome midterm headwinds that could flip the 50-50 Senate to Republicans. They’re getting a head start on general-election messaging while some Republican challengers focus on advancing from their primaries.
The millions of dollars in support they’re receiving will allow these incumbents to “build sophisticated message campaigns so voters have a complete picture of what’s in their heart as well as what’s in their voting record,” said Martha McKenna, a Democratic media consultant.
In an initial TV ad, Kelly talked about his childhood, his family living paycheck to paycheck, and his work to become a Navy pilot and astronaut. Another ad launched by Kelly on Tuesday also touts his NASA experience, saying it makes him “a different kind of senator” focused on results, rather than party politics.
Like Kelly, Warnock won his seat in a special election in the last cycle and continued a furious pace of fundraising through his first two years in office. Campaign manager Quentin Fulks said Warnock’s “commitment to serving the people of Georgia continues to drive the biggest grassroots fundraising effort in any Senate race this cycle.”
Warnock’s first ad, which launched last week, describes his empathy as a pastor and ends with him saying to Georgians: “I see you. I hear you. I am you.”
Cortez Masto, who raised $4.4 million in the first quarter and had $11 million on hand, ran TV ads in March highlighting how her votes for Covid-19 relief legislation helped workers in Nevada’s hospitality industry, which was devastated by a sharp decline in tourism. She’s reserved $10 million worth of air time for future TV ads.
Hassan, who raised $4.3 million and had $7.5 million on hand, ran TV ads last fall emphasizing her support for bipartisan legislation offering tax credits for business investment. She stopped running ads after New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) announced he wouldn’t challenge her, but she’s reserved $13 million worth of ad time in the fall.
Hassan campaign manager Aaron Jacobs said in a statement that the fundraising success “will ensure that we can reach Granite Staters in every corner of the state and amplify Senator Hassan’s record,” as Republican contenders compete in a primary that won’t be held until Sept. 13.
Republican strategist Brian Walsh pointed to the 2020 elections, in which Senate Democratic candidates outraised Republican competitors in Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, North Carolina and South Carolina, and lost those races.
“Midterms are often generally a referendum on the party in power and given President Biden’s low poll numbers, Democrats should rightfully be very worried that strong fundraising won’t be enough to counter a difficult political environment for them in key states,” Walsh said.
GOP media consultant Fred Davis called it “wishful thinking” for Democrats to believe that strong campaign fundraising and ad spending will be enough to hold the Senate majority.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org