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5 takeaways from the new House and Senate fundraising reports

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) walks with a reporter on Capitol Hill on July 15. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Rep. Paul A. Gosar was from Georgia. He represents a district in Arizona.

Despite it seeming like the 2020 election will never truly end — at least in the minds of some — we’re now more than one-quarter of the way between that election and the next one, in 2022. And that election is huge, given how much Democrats’ control of all three levers of power in Washington rests on a knife’s edge. Republicans need to net just one seat in the Senate and five in the House to retake them.

And the midpoint of the 2021 calendar year means we’ve got fresh, new fundraising reports to mine for clues about the coming campaign.

Below are some of the big takeaways we’ve gleaned from looking them over.

1. The pro-impeachment Republicans

The second quarter was the first full quarter since 10 House Republicans made history by voting to impeach a sitting GOP president. And now the Trump wing of the party is intent upon making examples of all of them — by taking them out in primaries.

Fundraising is by no means the be-all, end-all, but it gives us a sense of these members’ prospects.

As the Hotline’s Kirk A. Bado noted, 7 of the 10 raised less money in the second quarter of 2021 than in the first quarter. But few of the drop-offs were too severe. And a few actually upped their fundraising game.

Leading that latter list is Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has emerged as perhaps the most passionate Trump critic of those 10. Cheney, who was relieved of her duties as the No. 3 House Republican in mid-May, raised a whopping $1.9 million. That’s one of the biggest hauls of any House member. It’s also notably more than her replacement in that No. 3 leader slot, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who raised more than $1.2 million for her House campaign.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) is arguably second on the list of prominent GOP Trump critics now. He raised a very strong $1.2 million in the first quarter, before seeing that drop to about $800,000 in the past three months. (Kinzinger has also focused on fundraising for a political action committee aimed at moving the GOP past Trumpism.)

Michigan Republican Reps. Fred Upton and Peter Meijer and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) otherwise saw the biggest drop-offs. Yet virtually every incumbent with an established primary opponent outraised them, with a notable exception of Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), who was outraised by conservative media figure Graham Allen.

About the one Senate race where this could come into play would be Alaska, where Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) was one of seven GOP senators to vote to convict Trump at trial. She outraised her Trump-backed opponent, Kelly Tshibaka (R), $1.1 million to $750,000. (Alaska does not have partisan primaries, though, giving Murkowski a better shot at reelection.)

2. The fire-breathers come out on top

On the other side of the party come the big winners.

On March 30, the New York Times broke the news that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was under FBI investigation for allegedly having sex with an underage girl. The second quarter began two days later, but Gaetz still managed one of the top hauls among House incumbents: $1.3 million.

(Gaetz spent heavily to raise that much though, shelling out even more, $1.9 million. Among his expenses were $25,000 for a lawyer who formerly represented Jeffrey Epstein.)

That was a trend in the second quarter: Republican fire-breathers like Gaetz raising lots of money.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), for instance, raised $3.2 million. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) raised $1.6 million. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) raised $730,000. And Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) pulled in $1.1 million.

One extreme Republican who did not parlay that into cash, though, was Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.). Gosar, who has defended campaigning alongside White nationalists and claimed Ashli Babbitt was “executed” on Jan. 6, raised a paltry $66,000. That’s an extremely low number for an incumbent. He has just $76,000 in his campaign account.

3. The biggest ‘wow’ number

That would belong to Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who pulled in a startling $9.6 million as he continues to build his national brand and has been seen as a potential presidential candidate. That’s more than he raised and spent for his entire 2014 Senate campaign, and he did it in a three-month period in an off-year.

Scott has a reelection race in 2022, but he’s not expected to be a top Democratic target at all, and leftover funds could be transferred to a presidential campaign.

Sens. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who will both defend seats won in special elections in 2020, were the other big numbers, pulling in $7.2 million and $6 million, respectively, in very competitive races.

4. The Grassley and Johnson retirement questions

Two big questions still remain in the all-important battle for the Senate: whether Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) will retire. And fundraising numbers can sometimes provide some hints.

Grassley, 87, seems likely to seek another term, and he pulled in $625,000 in the quarter. That’s not a terribly strong number, but it doesn’t necessarily point to an impending retirement.

Johnson raised more, a total of $1.2 million, which was good enough to outpace all of his potential Democratic opponents. But for a guy likely in a top-targeted race even if he does run again, it’s not a huge number by today’s standards.

5. The other big numbers for Democrats — especially in California

Some other numbers that stood out on the Democratic side, particularly in California and among potentially upwardly mobile Democrats:

  • Impeachment leader Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) raised another $2 million and has a whopping $15.6 million on hand in safe district, should he ever run for higher office.
  • Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), who often goes viral for her tough questioning in committee hearings, raised $2.6 million and has an astounding $12.9 million in her account after just two-plus years in Congress. (Porter is a potential GOP target in a competitive area, depending upon how the districts are redrawn.)
  • Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a Bernie Sanders ally who happens to be the one California Democratic congressman who hasn’t endorsed appointed Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), saw his fundraising decline from $1.5 million in the first quarter to about $790,000. That’s still a good number, but this is a very expensive state.

Another number we found interesting: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who isn’t up for reelection until 2024, raised $1.1 million. That’s a strong number for an out-of-cycle senator. It’s also pretty significant for someone who has alienated much of her party’s activist base with her refusal to help nuke the filibuster.

Sinema, like the pro-impeachment Republicans, finds herself targeted in a potential primary. Like Cheney, she seems to be gearing up for the fight and is still able to raise good money.