Democrats’ Massive Fundraising Haul Barely Moved The Needle In Key Senate Races

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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  • Democratic challengers in four hotly contested Senate races out-raised Republican incumbents by more than $125 million, though none are likely to flip those seats blue. 
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham’s challenger, Jamie Harrison, raised $107 million in the 2020 cycle. But Graham is poised to win the same vote share this cycle as he did in 2014, when his challenger raised a paltry $524,000. 
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s challenger raised the second highest amount of money, but the Republican is projected to win Tuesday’s contest by a larger margin than he did in 2014.

Sen. Lindsey Graham fared nearly as well on Tuesday against a Democratic challenger who spent more than $100 million in the 2020 cycle as he did against his opponent in 2014, who raised a paltry $525,000 for that campaign.

Graham’s stronger-than-expected showing highlights one of the most startling patterns to emerge from the election Tuesday: historic campaign contributions to Democrats against incumbent Senate Republicans did not pay off.

In four hotly contested races, the Democratic candidates raised $125 million more ($288 million versus $163 million) than Republican incumbents.

But according to results compiled by the Associated Press, the Republicans in those races won by almost the same margins as they did in 2014. The strong Republican showing is likely to help the GOP retain control of the Senate. (RELATED: Lindsey Graham Defeats Jamie Harrison)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fared better on Tuesday against Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in his Kentucky race than he did against his opponent in 2014, Alison Lundergan Grimes.

According to the AP, McConnell leads McGrath by 20.4 percentage points, 58.2 to 37.8%.

McGrath raised $88 million for her race, the second highest of any Senate candidate (behind Harrison in South Carolina). McConnell raised $50 million.

McConnell defeated Grimes in 2014 by 15.5 percentage points, while outraising her by a $31 million to $19 million margin.

Sen. Joni Ernst and Thom Tillis, the Republican incumbents in Iowa and North Carolina, respectively, also fared as well on Tuesday as they did in 2014, despite facing heavy fundraising deficits.

Ernst was declared the victor over Theresa Greenfield by a margin of 51.8-45.2%. Greenfield raised $47 million, a record for an Iowa Senate race, versus $23 million for Ernst.

Ernst won in 2014 by a 52.1-43.8% margin. She and her opponent raised $12 million each in that race.

Tillis’ race against Cal Cunningham has not been called, but the Republican is currently leading by the same margin he won by in 2014.

He is leading Cunningham 48.7-46.9% despite being outspent $21 million to $46 million. Tillis won in 2014, 48.8-47.3%, and was also outspent $11 million to $25 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Harrison’s resounding loss to Graham is likely to cause the most soul-searching for Democrats.

Democrats had high hopes for Harrison, a former DNC official who previously served as chairman of the Democratic party in South Carolina.

Polls had Harrison running neck-and-neck with Graham, who has become a prominent target because of his close alliance with President Donald Trump and his role in confirming Trump-appointed judges Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Vox, the liberal political website, declared the Harrison-Graham race an unexpected battleground state in an article on Oct. 22. The Guardian, the British newspaper, posited that Harrison might pull the upset of 2020. Harrison’s historic fundraising numbers also generated headlines of their own in prominent U.S. newspapers.

The New York Times marveled at Harrison’s “astonishing” $57 million cash haul in the most recent fundraising quarter.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Harrison raised $107 million to Graham’s $69 million during the entire 2020 cycle.

Harrison raised more than $106 million more than Graham’s challenger in 2014, Brad Hutto.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Graham raised $11 million in that contest compared to Hutto’s $524,230 haul.

Graham received nearly the same vote share in both races.

With 88% of precincts reporting, Graham defeated Harrison 55.8-42.9%. The Republican defeated Hutto 55.3-38.8% in 2014.

Republicans also held ground in Kansas on Tuesday despite historic contribution levels to Democrat Barbara Bollier’s campaign.

Rep. Roger Marshall defeated Bollier 53.8-41.3% to win the Senate seat, according to the Associated Press. Bollier, a state senator, outraised Marshall by a margin of $24 million to $6 million.

Marshall will replace outgoing Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. In 2014, Roberts won his race against businessman Greg Orman, 53.1-42.5%.

Roberts raised more money in that race, $8 million, than Marshall did this cycle. Orman raised one-fourth the amount Bollier drew into her campaign.

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