With the release of Q1 FEC filings this week, we’ve been able to see which campaigns have been prolific fundraisers and which ones are in some amount of trouble. On the whole, the releases are good news for Democrats trying to win the Senate in 2020, as Democrats outraised Republicans in eight races with Republican incumbents – although, three of those (Alaska, Kentucky, and South Carolina) are not currently expected to be competitive, and in Michigan Democrat Gary Peters was outraised by his GOP opponent.
The two biggest pieces of news out of the releases have to be Maine and North Carolina. In Maine, Susan Collins got outraised by $4.7M in Q1,by Democratic Speaker of the Maine House Sara Gideon, with Gideon raising north of $7M in a state that isn’t known for expensive political races. This massive campaign haul is indicative of the Democrats efforts to get rid of Collins after Congressional votes to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court and to acquit Donald Trump on both charges against him in the Senate trial. She is one of only two GOP Senators up this cycle in a state won by Hillary Clinton, so she was already facing an uphill climb to hold the seat. Against robust Democratic fundraising, Collins will have to step up her own numbers, as another $2.4M quarter won’t be enough, even as she still holds a $1M cash in hand advantage.
In North Carolina, Thom Tillis still has a substantial lead in cash on hand over Cal Cunningham, but the good news stops there. Tillis only raised $1.4M in Q1, a full $3M less than Cunningham. For the Democrats to be outraising a GOP incumbent in a Trump state by over 300% is pretty shocking, and it’s a sign that Tillis is in trouble – which is confirmed by polls of the state. The North Carolina Senator did lead in a poll of the state released on Wednesday, but that poll had both him and Cunningham under 40% of the vote apiece, so it should be taken with a pinch of salt. If North Carolina does flip – a reasonable prospect, even if one doesn’t agree with the LeanTossup Senate Model where Cunningham is a sizeable favourite – fundraising hauls like this for Cunningham will be part of why.
Other notable results include both Texas and the regularly scheduled Georgia race, where John Cornyn and David Perdue have substantial fundraising edges and big leads in terms of cash in hand. That will be very helpful to GOP prospects in those states as Democrats try and continue trends and flip the South blue. Having large amounts of campaign cash to spend while Democrats will have to rely on the Presidential spend and outside groups will be of great advantage for both Cornyn and Perdue.
In Kansas, Democrat Barbara Bollier led the field for the open Senate seat with a $2.35M haul, leading her GOP opponents. In other news out of the Sunflower State, Bollier led a PPP poll of Kansas Senate 44%-42% if Kris Kobach is the GOP nominee. This poll, from a pollster with a history of Democratic leanings, shows the state competitive with Kobach, and Bollier’s fundraising haul means that if Democrats get what they want in a Kobach candidacy, they’ll at least be able to take advantage and make it a race.
Lastly, Mark Kelly just lapped the field, with an $11M haul in Q1 and $19M in the bank. (Appointed) Republican Senator Martha McSally did well herself, with a $6.3M haul, but she lagged behind in both Q1 and updated cash on hold totals. To compound things even further for McSally, she is down 9% to Kelly per a OH-Predictive Insights poll of the state released on Wednesday, 51%-42%.
The Democrats need four Senate seats plus the Vice Presidency, to win the Senate, given Doug Jones is going to lose in Alabama. Colorado, where Cory Gardner got outraised by John Hickenlooper, is the likeliest 47th state, given Colorado’s partisan lean. Arizona would then be the 48th state, given the impressive polling and fundraising numbers Mark Kelly is putting up. For Democrats, states 49 and 50 have always been Maine and North Carolina in some order – and these filings validate that Democratic hope. In both states, Democrats substantially outraised their GOP opponents, and showed that they are serious contenders for the seats. Given the nature of those North Carolina and Maine numbers, and the prospect of Kansas being competitive in the fall, the GOP should be very, very worried – their grip on the majority is not as secure as it was at this point in 2016.
The fact that Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham got outraised by Democrats should also worry the GOP a bit, but there is no evidence from a non-partisan pollster that either’s state is competitive. Throw in Montana, where Steve Bullock’s March entrance into the race means his Q1 information won’t tell us a whole hell of a lot, and the GOP cannot be considered the favourites to win the Senate at this point. If Michigan were to trend their way, or they could claw back Tillis or Collins, that could easily change – after all, we are still this far out – but this is just confirmation of a trend that started March 1st with the release of the first poll showing Cal Cunningham beating Thom Tillis. The GOP’s downballot chances have suffered in recent weeks, and nothing in this data dump has done anything but poured gasoline on that fire.
Evan Scrimshaw (@EScrimshaw) is Managing Editor and Head Of Content at LeanTossup.ca and a contributor to the Decision Desk HQ.