The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Democrats’ stunning fundraising

Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison at a drive-in campaign rally Saturday in North Charleston, S.C. (Lauren Petracca for The Washington Post)

Two years ago, Beto O’Rourke stunned the political world by raising $38.1 million in the final quarter of fundraising ahead of Texas’s Senate race, setting him on course for a near-miss loss in a state that Democrats had been trying to put in play for years.

By Friday morning, though, O’Rourke’s 2018 haul became something of a footnote. All told, Democratic candidates seeking to take back the Senate in November beat his record three times last quarter, and just about all of them swamped their GOP opponents (most of them incumbents) in the 2020 race.

Money isn’t everything in politics, but to the extent that it reflects momentum and enthusiasm, Democrats got another shot in the arm with a little more than two weeks left in the campaign.

The Democrats’ dominance in third-quarter fundraising is virtually unprecedented. It was led by South Carolina’s Jaime Harrison ($57 million), Maine’s Sara Gideon ($39.4 million) and Arizona’s Mark Kelly ($38.7 million), all of whom eclipsed O’Rourke’s record from just two years prior.

But even setting aside those record hauls, every Democratic Senate candidate running in the 15 races considered competitive outraised his or her Republican opponent. Combined, they raised more than $370 million, compared with about $150 million for the GOP candidates: an average of $25 million for the Democratic candidates and $10 million for the Republicans.

The Democrats’ advantage was even wider than former vice president Joe Biden’s edge over President Trump in just-released numbers for September, when Biden pulled in $383 million to Trump’s $248 million.

Twelve of the 15 Democratic candidates raised at least double their opponents’ haul, eight raised triple, and six raised at least quadruple.

Here are the most lopsided tallies:

  • Gideon’s $39.4 million more than quadrupled Republican Sen. Susan Collins’s $8.3 million.
  • Iowa Democrat Theresa Greenfield’s $28.7 million quadrupled Republican Sen. Joni Ernst’s $7.2 million.
  • North Carolina Democrat Cal Cunningham raised $28.3 million, compared with Republican Sen. Thom Tillis’s $6.6 million.
  • Democrat Barbara Bollier outraised Republican Rep. Roger Marshall $13.5 million to $2.9 million for Kansas’s open seat.
  • Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock raised $12.8 million compared with appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s $2 million. (Loeffler has spent an additional $5.5 million of her own money. She is also fighting for a place in a likely runoff with Republican Rep. Douglas A. Collins, who pulled in $2.3 million.)
  • Alaska independent Al Gross (who has said he would caucus with Democrats), outraised Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan $9.1 million to $1.7 million.

Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff also came close to quadrupling his opponent, raising $21.3 million, compared with Republican Sen. David Perdue’s $5.6 million.

The only state in which it was even close was Michigan, where Democratic Sen. Gary Peters’s $14.7 million was very similar to Republican John James’s $14.4 million.

And only two other Republicans in top Senate races raised even half of their Democratic opponents’ haul: Republican Sen. Martha McSally (Ariz.) raised $23 million — compared with Kelly’s $38.7 million — and Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) netted $7.2 million — compared with Democrat MJ Hegar’s $13.5 million.

The Washington Post's Michelle Ye Hee Lee explains how wealthy donors can give unlimited sums to support their favorite politicians, despite donation caps. (Video: The Washington Post)