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Fundraising reports paint murky picture of Democrats’ future

Senate totals exceed GOP’s but some vulnerable House members outraised

New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas is one of a handful of Democrats in battleground districts who were outraised by Republicans opponents in the third quarter.
New Hampshire Rep. Chris Pappas is one of a handful of Democrats in battleground districts who were outraised by Republicans opponents in the third quarter. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Corrected Oct. 20 | Six House Democrats facing competitive races next year, including the chairman of a committee that crafted an infrastructure package, raised less money during the summer than Republicans vying to oust them, new disclosures show.

That could be a worrying sign for Democrats, who have almost no margin for error as they seek to defy historical trends and defend a narrow House majority in 2022. 

“Republicans erasing Democrats’ financial advantage is the latest evidence Democrats’ majority is doomed and the best decision they can make is to retire now and save face,” said Michael McAdams, communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for the House GOP. 

On the Senate side, where Democrats are defending a tie-breaking majority, incumbents and challengers in battleground states once again posted strong fundraising numbers. House Democrats, meanwhile, downplayed the threat from Republicans. 

“Our Democratic Frontline Members are battle-tested and have proven that they know what it takes to win in the nation’s most competitive districts — And they have the infrastructure and resources needed to do so,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman Nebeyatt Betre said in a statement. 

“So far this year, the DCCC has had three record-breaking fundraising quarters and we just outraised the NRCC by $10 million in Q3 because voters are eager to send Democrats back to Congress with a majority,” she said, referring to the third fundraising quarter, which spanned from July through September. 

Republicans need a net pickup of five seats in 2022 for the House majority, and just one seat to regain the Senate.

Strategists on both sides of the aisle cautioned against drawing conclusions so early in the cycle, but that’s especially true this cycle since most states have yet to approve new maps for House seats following redistricting. It is unclear which districts will really be competitive, and, in some districts, candidates could be waiting for new boundary lines before launching bids. 

‘People are excited’

Candidates on both sides of the aisle are nevertheless raising large amounts of money, and Democrats, on the whole, are in a strong financial position in both the House and the Senate. 

“We are not seeing a lack of enthusiasm when it comes to Democrats raising money,” said Julia Ager, the founder of Sapphire Strategies, who served as the DCCC’s chief digital officer in 2018. “People are excited about the House and the Senate and recognize that both are at stake in this election.” 

Even news that seems bad could pay off. Democratic digital fundraising consultant Taryn Rosenkranz said donors can be motivated to get involved when they see a candidate they like get outraised. 

“Hopefully, this is that rally cry for our donors to step up and reengage,” she said. 

The six Democrats in competitive races who were outraised include five in the party’s Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents  — Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon, Jared Golden of Maine, Mike Levin of California, Lucy McBath of Georgia and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire — plus Florida’s Stephanie Murphy.

A CQ Roll Call analysis of third-quarter data found that the average incumbent Democrat in a battleground House district — defined as one targeted by either party’s campaign committees — raised $591,000 to the average GOP challenger’s $183,000. The Democrats also had almost 12 times more cash — an average $2.4 million compared with an average $208,000 — as of Sept. 30. 

Similarly, the average battleground House Republican incumbent raised $508,000 to the average Democratic challenger’s $183,000, and had six times as much cash.

Levin’s and McBath’s opponents loaned money to their campaigns that pushed their totals higher, as did one of Murphy’s GOP opponents.

DeFazio, who chairs the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Pappas could end up facing rematches with their 2020 GOP opponents, who outraised them in the third quarter. Golden’s haul of $675,000 fell short of the $883,000 raised by former Rep. Bruce Poliquin, the Republican he ousted in 2018. By contrast, just one Republican on the DCCC’s target list, Missouri’s Ann Wagner, was outraised by a Democrat. Another battleground GOP incumbent, Arizona Rep. David Schweikert, saw a GOP primary opponent put nearly $1.3 million into his campaign — Schweikert brought in $150,000 in the third quarter. 

A former NRCC strategist who spoke on condition of anonymity said the fundraising strength of GOP challengers was a sign of “donors being able to see that Republicans are probably going to take the majority.” 

Focus on cash on hand

In the House, 50 Democrats targeted by the NRCC raised a combined $29.6 million, averaging $591,000 each and ending the quarter with an average $2.4 million in the bank.

Cole Leiter, a former DCCC strategist who is now a consultant for Purple Strategies, pointed to the cash-on-hand totals as a sign of strength for Democrats. 

“The two most important things an incumbent can do in the off-year is define their brand and raise the money to communicate it,” he said. “The fact that 13 Frontline Democrats have more than $2 million cash on hand shows they are doing their end to put themselves in position to win in what could be a tough midterm environment.”

The 22 Republicans targeted by the DCCC raised a combined $11.1 million, averaging $508,000 each and ending the quarter with an average $1 million on hand.

Senate Democrats still dominate

Senate Democrats also continued their fundraising dominance. The strong numbers may be a sign that donors view Senate races as better investments since Democrats may be more likely to hold onto the chamber. But Rosenkranz said it’s still too early to know. 

“I don’t think we can say that yet. I do think there is a danger of that,” said Rosenkranz, noting that Senate candidates also tend to have larger fundraising email lists. She said campaign contributions “can be a measure of where [donor] excitement is but because we’re in the off year, it’s still a little too early to say.” 

Overall, the average Democratic senator from a state Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates as a 2022 battleground raised $6 million, compared with $949,000 for the average GOP challenger. The average battleground Republican senator raised $3.5 million, compared with $915,000 for the average Democratic challenger.

None of the four Democrats in battleground races were outraised by a GOP opponent, with Arizona’s Mark Kelly and Georgia’s Raphael Warnock both reporting multimillion-dollar quarters. Warnock had the largest sum of any senator up for reelection, raising a whopping $9.5 million in the third quarter. 

Democratic challengers also posted strong fundraising quarters. The two GOP senators facing competitive races, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, raised less than Democrats vying to replace them. 

In Florida, Democratic front-runner Rep. Val B. Demings raised $8.5 million, while Rubio took in $6 million. Johnson, who has not said if he is running for a third term, raised $906,000, while three Democrats — Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry — raised more than $1 million. Godlewski and Lasry, though, both put in their own money — the former contributed $315,000 to her campaign and made a personal loan of $685,000, while Lasry loaned his campaign $750,000.

Democratic candidates also raised more than Republicans in the race for an open seat in North Carolina, while a GOP candidate’s personal loan to her campaign put her at the top of the list of candidates seeking Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat.

In North Carolina, Democrat Cheri Beasley, a former state Supreme Court chief justice, led the field in fundraising, pulling in $1.5 million. State Sen. Jeff Jackson, who is also running for the Democratic nomination, raised $902,000. On the Republican side, both former Gov. Pat McCrory and Rep. Ted Budd, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, raised $1 million. 

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman once again led the Democratic field in the Keystone State, raising nearly $2.7 million. Rep. Conor Lamb, who launched his campaign in August, raised $1.2 million while Val Arkoosh, who chairs the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, raised $1 million. 

Carla Sands, who served as ambassador to Denmark under Trump, led the Republican field in Pennsylvania with nearly $3.6 million raised, which included a $3.1 million loan. Army veteran Sean Parnell, who has Trump’s endorsement, raised $1.1 million, while real estate developer Jeff Bartos raised $653,000, including a $400,000 personal loan.

This report has been corrected to include data from Pennsylvania Senate candidate Carla Sands.

Ryan Kelly and Herb Jackson contributed to this report.

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