If the 2018 cycle has made anything clear, Donald Trump is the best fundraiser Democratic candidates have ever had. Democrats only need to pick up 23 GOP seats for House control, but their donors' desperation to thwart the president helped Democratic candidates out-raise a jaw-dropping 55 GOP House incumbents in the last three months. And 18 Democrats in GOP-held seats raised more than $1 million (not including self-funders).
For context, in the GOP wave of 2010, 44 Democratic incumbents were out-raised by GOP candidates during the same period, according to Politico's Elena Schneider. But that year, Republicans needed to pick up 40 seats for control, nearly twice what Democrats need now.
Here are five quick takeaways from the latest batch of House FEC data:
In 37 GOP-held districts — including 16 held by Republican incumbents — a Democrat entered July with the most cash on hand (in 2010, only eight incumbent Democrats trailed a Republican at this point). In races like NJ-11, where Sherrill has a $2.9 million to $171,000 cash advantage, Democrats are poised to control the narrative in cost-prohibitive markets.
The CLF raised an impressive $51 million between April and June and has $71 million on hand. The NRCC had an additional $61 million on hand at the end of May. But outside groups pay higher rates than candidates for ads, and as March's special in PA-18 showed, there's no substitute for candidates communicating directly. Soon, Republican groups will need to decide which seats are worth the expense of trying to save.
Those three donor-rich states accounted for 12 of the 18 Democrats who raised more than $1 million: Josh Harder (CA-10), Andrew Janz (CA-22), Katie Hill (CA-25), Katie Porter (CA-45), Mike Levin (CA-49), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07), Gina Ortiz Jones (TX-23), M.J. Hegar (TX-31) and Colin Allred (TX-32).
Devised by new pro-Democratic groups like SwingLeft (mostly small donors) and the House Victory Project (mostly high-dollar donors), these bundled funds explain why even relatively weak candidates like T.J. Cox (CA-21) or ones who emerged from bruising primaries like Susan Wild (PA-07) were able to out-raise their Republican opponents in the past quarter.
Perennial Democratic targets like GOP Reps. Mike Coffman (CO-06), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26) and Will Hurd (TX-23) still lead their challengers in cash. But of the 64 Republicans we rate less than "Solid," 49 were first elected in 2010 or after (meaning they haven't faced this kind of hostile political climate before) and few of the 15 others have been tested recently. Many aren't keeping pace.
Democratic donors' sky-high enthusiasm is the result of their antipathy to Trump and attraction to candidates' stories. Powerful, viral bio videos by M.J. Hegar (TX-31) and Amy McGrath (KY-06) have proven more effective fundraising tools than emails from 2020 aspirants or visits from Nancy Pelosi —- which is why few Democrats express allegiance to the current leadership.
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