WASHINGTON – Democrats fighting to capture Republican-held Senate seats outraised their GOP opponents in at least a dozen races over the past three months – sometimes with eye-popping amounts – newly filed disclosure reports show.
One of the biggest gaps was in North Carolina where Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham raised nearly three times as much as GOP Sen. Thom Tillis.
The disparity was nearly as great in Maine where Democrat Sara Gideon collected about $9.4 million, in contrast to GOP Sen. Susan Collins' $3.6 million.
In Arizona, Mark Kelly has banked $24 million, more than twice the cash that GOP Sen. Martha McSally reported having on hand at the end of June.
The erosion in President Donald Trump's poll numbers is spilling over to Republican House and Senate candidates amid concerns over the president's response to the coronavirus pandemic and public unrest after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
In a Nov. 3 election likely to revolve around Trump, Democrats see opportunities they didn't have at the beginning of the year.
"The biggest change over the past several months as a result of especially, I think, Donald Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic is this sort of widening of the Senate map that we've seen," Molly Reynolds, a congressional expert at the Brookings Institution, said in a webinar Wednesday.
Democrats bragged about the number of fundraising records broken by their candidates, including the $7.8 million raised by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the biggest quarterly haul by a Senate candidate in that state.
Two challengers – Theresa Greenfield in Iowa and Jon Ossoff in Georgia – who had lagged the incumbents they're trying to unseat in the first quarter, became the top fundraisers in the second quarter.
The figures from the reports filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission are the latest evidence of Democrats' growing chance of retaking the Senate this fall, a prospect that seemed unlikely at the start of the year.
Republican incumbents still have a big cash advantage in several of the races. Georgia Sen. David Perdue had about $10.7 million in the bank at the end of June compared with Ossoff's $2.5 million.
Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., had banked nearly $10.7 million compared with Democrat John Hickenlooper's $4.6 million.
Democrats' greater ability to raise significant funds from small-dollar donors – an advantage that helped them win the House in 2018 – is likely to boost their campaigns.
Amy McGrath, a Kentucky Democrat taking on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has raised more than $18 million this year in amounts of $200 or less. That's enabled her to outraise McConnell and nearly match the $16.65 million he had in the bank at the end of June.
McGrath, who had an unexpectedly close primary, is viewed by handicappers as a long shot in her heavily Republican state. But Democrats are gleeful that, at a minimum, Republicans will have to devote increasingly scarce attention and resources to candidates who initially were not seen as vulnerable.
McConnell will lose his position as head of the narrowly divided Senate if Democrats keep all their seats and take four from Republicans. Democrats will need a net gain of three seats if they capture the White House, because the vice president serves as the tiebreaker on 50-50 votes.
The most endangered Democratic seat is in Alabama.
Sen. Doug Jones has outraised GOP challenger Tommy Tuberville this year, banking nearly $8.8 million. Tuberville, who defeated former Sen. Jeff Sessions in the GOP primary, started July with $551,285.
Despite his financial lead, Jones is still viewed as the underdog by national political handicappers because of Alabama's deeply Republican roots.
In Michigan, another state where Republicans are playing offense, the GOP has a rare fundraising advantage. Challenger John James outraised Democratic Sen. Gary Peters for the second quarter in a row, although he hasn't caught up to Peters in banked cash.
Democrats boasting of their fundraising success in unlikely places such as Kansas where Barbara Bollier has raised more than any of the Republicans running for the nomination in that open seat.
In Mississippi, Democrat Mike Espy raised about three times as much as Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in the second quarter.
In South Carolina, Democrat Jaime Harrison brought in $14 million as he outraised Sen. Lindsey Graham for the second quarter in a row.
Inside Elections, one of the top analysts of congressional races, still gives the advantage to Graham. But even before the disclosure reports were filed, the race was one of eight in which Inside Elections increased its assessment of Democrats' chances.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Democrats get flood of money in Senate races as Trump's woes hurt GOP