Trump-State Senate Democrats Hold Cash Advantage

(Bloomberg) -- Democratic incumbents facing this year’s toughest U.S. Senate re-election battles have built a major cash advantage entering the peak campaign-spending period before November’s elections.

In six states won by President Donald Trump in 2016 where primaries already have been held, the Democratic nominees have more than four times as much cash in the bank as their Republican opponents -- $45 million altogether at the beginning of July.

Four of those states gave Trump double-digit wins, making the Democratic incumbents -- Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana and Joe Donnelly of Indiana -- prime targets for Republicans trying to pad their Senate majority. But all four now are sitting on much heftier campaign balances than their GOP challengers.

The Democratic cash advantage extends to outside groups as well. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee reported $36.7 million in the bank at the end of June, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee had a little more than half that much. The main super political action committee backing Senate Democrats, SMP, had a cash advantage over the Republican-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, $32.7 million to $19.5 million.

Big Challenge

Even with the fundraising edge bolstered by the power of incumbency, Democrats face a significant challenge in the battle for the Senate, which Republicans now control 51-49. Democrats and independents who caucus with them are defending 26 Senate seats, while Republicans are protecting just nine. Ten of those are in states Trump won.

Independent analysts suggest Democrats have much better prospects of winning control of the U.S. House, where they need a net gain of 23 seats to take the majority.

A bulging campaign treasury is no guarantee of victory.

"Democratic incumbents massively outspent their Republican challengers in 2014, and nearly every one of them lost," said Chris Pack, communications director for the Senate Leadership Fund and several other Republican-aligned groups. "It’s not just the comparative difference -- it’s whether our candidates will have the critical mass of resources -- amplified by groups like ours -- to make their case. Most, but not all of them, will."

Expensive Race

Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, certainly will. He ranked first among all Senate candidates for fundraising and spending during the quarter. As part of his challenge to incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, Scott took in $22.5 million including $14.1 million of his own money.

Scott ended the quarter, the first full one since he began his candidacy on April 9, with $4.5 million cash on hand and spending of $18 million. Nelson spent just $1.2 million, while raising $4.4 million. His more cautious outlays left him with $13.7 million in the bank, an advantage that Scott’s deep pockets and prodigious fundraising could neutralize.

The battle in the nation’s most populated swing state -- which Trump won by one percentage point -- is almost certain to be the most expensive in the country and could become a money vortex that pulls resources from other states. Scott is a multimillionaire former health care executive who invested tens of millions of his own money into his successful 2010 and 2014 campaigns for governor.

The governor will also benefit from expenditures from the New Republican PAC, a super political action committee that raised $7.1 million in the quarter, including a $5 million contribution from billionaire hedge-fund manager Ken Griffin, founder of Citadel LLC.

August Primaries

Florida is among the four Trump-won states with Democratic incumbents where primaries will be held in August.

Another is Missouri, a state Trump won by 19 percentage points. Josh Hawley, the Republican attorney general and presumptive GOP Senate nominee, ended the quarter with $3 million cash on hand. That was less than a quarter of what Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill had. She spent $3.5 million, while Hawley went through $963,717. Trump is fundraising for Hawley and headlined an event Tuesday in Missouri, where the primary is Aug. 7.

The Senate Democrat who raised the most during the quarter from a state that Trump won was Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who is running for a second term. She pulled in $4.5 million during the quarter and has $7.2 million in the bank.

Baldwin’s top two Republican challengers, State Senator Leah Vukmir and businessman and Marine veteran Kevin Nicholson, together raised less than half of what she collected. Vukmir and Nicholson each have a Republican mega donor behind them and have engaged in a heated and expensive primary fight that won’t be resolved until Aug. 14.

Their battle is perhaps the top example of how Republicans are expending resources on lengthy Senate primary fights. That pattern is the reverse of House races where a bumper crop of Democratic candidates has triggered numerous primary battles that have drained resources.

In Michigan, a state Trump won by about a quarter percentage point, incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow raised $1.9 million and had $9.6 million cash on hand at the end of the second quarter, more than the combined $3.6 million the two Republicans vying for the nomination ended the quarter with. That state’s primary will be held on Aug. 7.

Trump-won stateIncumbent DemocratRepublican nominee (or GOP candidate with most cash on hand)Democratic cash-on-hand advantage
FLBill NelsonRick Scott$ 9,184,366  
INJoe DonnellyMike Braun$ 5,320,481  
MIDeborah StabenowSandy Pensler$ 7,313,607  
MOClaire McCaskillJosh Hawley$ 9,243,773  
MTJon TesterMatt Rosendale $ 5,459,468  
NDHeidi HeitkampKevin Cramer$ 2,799,615
OHSherrod BrownJames Renacci$ 6,898,723
PABob CaseyLou Barletta$ 8,326,685  
WVJoe ManchinPatrick Morrisey $ 5,385,474  
WITammy BaldwinLeah Vukmir $ 6,392,605  

Source: Senate Office of Public Records

In Indiana, where Trump won by 19 percentage points, businessman Mike Braun spent $3.8 million to prevail over two other Republicans in a May 8 primary. That left the former state legislator and auto parts distributor, who has put $6.4 million of his own money into his campaign, with $1.1 million in the bank. Donnelly ended the quarter with $6.4 million, after raising $1.9 million and spending roughly the same amount.

Manchin raised just $1.5 million during the quarter, but has built a massive cash-on-hand advantage over his Republican challenger, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. The incumbent had $6.3 million in the bank, while Morrisey had $894,493.

Matt Rosendale, the Montana state auditor who outlasted three Republican rivals in a June 5 primary, raised $933,386 and spent $835,561. That left him with $639,164 in the bank, a little more than a tenth of Tester’s $6.1 million. The incumbent raised $3 million and spent $3.7 million.

Heitkamp raised $1.9 million during the quarter and started July with $5.2 million in her campaign account for the race in North Dakota. Her challenger in a state Trump won by 36 percentage points, Representative Kevin Cramer, raised $1.4 million and ended the quarter with $2.4 million.

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, where Trump’s victory margin was 8 percentage points, reported collecting $3.7 million and starting July with $11.1 million in the bank. His challenger, Representative Jim Renacci, raised $1.8 million and had $4.2 million remaining.

In Pennsylvania, where Trump won by 1 percentage point, incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Casey has built a major lead in the money race, raising $2.2 million and ending the quarter with $9.9 million in the bank. His Republican challenger, Representative Lou Barletta, raised $1.3 million and had $1.6 million in his campaign account.

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