Although candidates are only required to file campaign finance reports quarterly, ActBlue reports a list of its transactions each month, which provides insight into fundraising by Democratic candidates. In the first half of the year, fundraising through ActBlue accounted for between 60 and 85 percent of total fundraising for Democratic Senate candidates in competitive races, POLITICO found.
Comparable numbers aren’t available for Republican candidates because the GOP’s main fundraising platform, WinRed, files quarterly campaign finance reports. With few exceptions, Democrats in competitive Senate races have significantly outperformed their Republican opponents this year.
The latest data suggests it may be difficult for Republicans to close that gap in states like Arizona and Ohio.
Among the most competitive Senate races, only one Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, had edged out a Democratic opponent by mid-July. Johnson, a two-term holder, had raised more than $16 million as of July 20, compared to $7 million for Barnes, the Democratic lieutenant governor who officially became the party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate after winning a primary on August 9 during which all of his main opponents gave up before election day.
Barnes, however, received a boost by becoming the nominee. It grossed just under $6.3 million through ActBlue in August, according to analysis by POLITICO, compared to $1.8 million in July.
Other contestants in competitive races also posted their highest monthly totals this cycle, including Demings, who grossed more than $7.8 million, the most of any contestant in August on ActBlue. The senses. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) raised $6.7 million and $5.7 million, respectively, while Fetterman raised $5.5 million. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) brought in $4.2 million while North Carolina prospect Cheri Beasley brought in just over $3 million, according to the data.
Democratic candidates’ high digital fundraising numbers partly reflect increased spending on digital platforms to target donors with voters. Warnock, Demings, Fetterman and Ryan — along with Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke — are the highest-spending candidates on Facebook over the past 90 days, according to the company’s own data. The biggest-spending GOP Senate candidate on the platform, Herschel Walker, spent just one-fifth of what Warnock, his opponent, spent over the same period.
Online Democratic fundraising previously fell slightly in July after many candidates saw strong fundraising in late June propelled by the overturning of the Supreme Court ruling Roe vs. Wade. But August’s rebound means Democratic candidates in competitive races are well positioned for the fall.
Fundraising isn’t everything, of course. As of August 2020, the highest ranking Democratic Senate candidate through ActBlue was Jaime Harrison of South Carolina, who again lost easily to Senator Lindsey Graham in November. Unlike 2020, however, when small Democratic donors poured tens of millions into races in South Carolina and Kentucky, the Senate candidates who have raised the most this cycle are all in states where the margin victory in the last presidential election was 8 points. or less.
Super PACs and other outside groups are spending heavily to help Republicans offset their candidates’ cash disadvantages, including through ads on platforms like Facebook. The Senate Leadership Fund and the Congressional Leadership Fund, the two main super PACs backing Republican Senate and House candidates respectively, had more money available than their Democratic counterparts a few months ago.
However, strong Democratic fundraising numbers mean candidates have more resources to deliver a message over which they have full control. Campaign fundraising also goes further than outside spending in some cases, as campaigns receive lower rates for TV ads.