In June, the National Republican Senatorial Committee prepared a slideshow for GOP chiefs of staff about the Democratic fundraising advantage. The final slide, obtained by Politico, showed a man on train tracks as a freight train bore down on him. When all was said and done by the second quarter, Democratic challengers in 10 key Senate races had outraised GOP incumbents by $34 million—$86 million to $52 million. Things just got a lot worse.
Though it’s worth keeping in mind that Senate Republicans started out with a cash advantage, that has been absolutely wiped away in the aftermath of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Democrats now have “a monster advantage,” Scott Reed, a strategist with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the New York Times. So much so, that what’s possible for Democrats has expanded the map in a real way in 13 contested Senate races.
Alaska’s Al Gross, for instance, was a virtual unknown in his bid to unseat GOP incumbent Sen. Dan Sullivan. But between Friday night and Monday, his campaign saw an infusion of nearly $3 million—doubling the war chest Gross had at the end of July.
Upon news of Ginsburg’s death, an outpouring of donations immediately started flowing through the Democratic fundraising site ActBlue. But in the hours following her death, the pledge from GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a vote on Donald Trump’s nominee to fill hear seat supercharged the donations in what one Senate campaign manager called a “rocket ship of rage.”
The sums are so big, some Democratic candidates, like Sara Gideon in Maine and Jaime Harrison in South Carolina, are declining to say what they raised. But the Times confirms that at least 13 Democratic candidates or incumbents raised over $1.3 million each between Friday and Monday. Cal Cunningham, who’s trying to unseat Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, raised $6 million in that period, while Democratic candidates in Maine, Arizona, Kentucky, and South Carolina likely raised even more.
As Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii observed, “Righteous anger is being translated into political action.”
Even before the windfall, Democrats had already reserved more TV ad space from September through Election Day in five of the most hotly contested races—Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina, Montana, and Maine. But the new reality gives an opportunity to longer-shot candidates like Gross in Alaska or MJ Hegar in Texas a chance to get their messages out in ways they couldn’t have imagined.
While some GOP strategists tried to dismiss the advantage as too little, too late, this is prime turnout season in the run up to the election—not to mention the fact that every Democratic challenger is now poised to pounce on any openings provided by the upcoming battle to fill Ginsburg’s seat. This is exactly the type of dynamic environment where extra cash can go a long way toward making someone pay for a mistake.
No one wanted to see the notorious RBG go out before the election—in fact, no one wanted to see her go out at all. But if it had to happen, this was the way to go.