(Adds Warnock’s fundraising total in 13th paragraph)
Democratic Senate contenders are raking in cash in states where the party hopes to add seats next year despite the potential for political headwinds.
Rep. Val Demings set the pace by announcing she raised $8.4 million in the third quarter for her challenge in Florida to Sen. Marco Rubio. The two-term Republican’s campaign said it raised $6 million in that time. Some Democrats vying for GOP-held open seats also amassed large sums, with Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman saying he raised $2.7 million and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan raising $2.5 million.
These offensive opportunities are critical for Democrats as they seek to tighten their grip on the 50-50 Senate in the midterm elections, both to increase their majority and if necessary offset any losses by their own vulnerable incumbents. But historical electoral trouble for the party controlling the White House appears possible again, with President Joe Biden’s approval rating continuing to trend downward in the RealClearPolitics average since dropping below 50% two months ago.
“Strong fundraising in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania challenger races is a solid indicator that Democratic grassroots donors are fired up,” Democratic consultant Martha McKenna said. But, she added: “There are many things outside of candidates’ control, including the popularity of the president in their state and how energized the Republican base is.”
Fetterman and Ryan are trying to flip Senate seats currently held by retiring Republican Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Rob Portman (Ohio) and increase a bare Democratic majority. The two raised more contributions than the Republicans announcing fundraising numbers in their states. Democrats are also targeting the open seat of retiring Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.), with Cheri Beasley, a former state supreme court chief justice, topping the primary field with $1.5 million.
Third-quarter fundraising reports, covering July through September, are due Friday.
Democrats say they expect Biden’s approval to rise again if they can pass his ambitious, stalled legislative agenda of infrastructure and social spending legislation. That could boost the prospects of their candidates for GOP-held seats and incumbents in swing states.
“How voters view the Biden presidency and the general direction of the country will ultimately be far more important than who raised the most money,” Republican consultant Brian Walsh said.
Walsh said a half-dozen Democratic Senate candidates outraised their Republican opponents by sizable margins in the last election but still lost “because much of that money was raised online outside of their home states.”
Democratic incumbents in key races who announced big numbers include Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, whose third-quarter receipts of $8 million brought his total for the year to some $18 million. Republicans competing to take on Kelly include Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, whose campaign said he raised about $600,000 in the quarter, and businessman Blake Masters, who announced $1.1 million raised and is backed by a well-funded super PAC.
In Nevada, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) announced a third-quarter total of $3.15 million, more than double the $1.4 million raised by former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R). Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) raised nearly $3 million, her campaign announced Thursday. Hassan could face Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who said he’s considering entering the race.
Notable GOP Challenger
Former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia announced the strongest fundraising for GOP Senate challengers and showed some Republican candidates are catching up with Democrats in online fundraising. Walker’s campaign said he raised $3.7 million in only five weeks since entering the race with the backing of former President Donald Trump, with money coming from more than 50,000 donors from all 50 states.
If he wins the Republican primary, Walker would face Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), who raised $9.5 million in the third quarter, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday.
Republicans also touted strong fundraising by their campaign arm, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and super PACs that helped the GOP minimize Senate losses and gain House seats in 2020.
“Democrats are seeing slumping poll numbers and declining enthusiasm among voters as Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer fail hardworking Americans from all walks of life,” NRSC Chairman Rick Scott (Fla.) said in announcing that his committee raised $9.5 million in September.
That pushed the committee’s total raised in the third quarter to $25 million and year-to-date to $76.2 million. The NRSC said it had $27.7 million in cash on hand at the end of September.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hasn’t yet released any details from its latest monthly financial report, which is due Oct. 20. Through August, the committee had raised $59.2 million for the year and had $10.5 million in cash after paying back $20 million in debts left over from the last election.
“Democrats’ massive fundraising shows the strength of our candidates’ grassroots support, and the enthusiasm that exists for Democrats’ work in the Senate to cut taxes for families, lower health care costs and grow millions of good-paying American jobs,” DSCC spokeswoman Jazmin Vargas said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kenneth P. Doyle in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org