Of the 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection in states Donald Trump won last fall, six brought in at least $2 million in the first quarter of 2017. Most Democrats far outpaced fundraising compared with the two Senate Republicans being targeted by Democrats next year: Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona, both of whom raised $1.4 million during the first three months of the year.
And on average, Senate Democrats in competitive races outraised GOP incumbents at the same point in the 2016 election cycle.
Democrats are heavy underdogs to win back the Senate because they have to defend 25 seats versus just nine that Republicans are trying to keep in their column. But the Democratic senators’ blockbuster first-quarter numbers — buoyed by liberal grass-roots opposition to Trump — are giving them an early shot of momentum heading into the midterms. Strategists also hope the numbers will scare off potential GOP challengers at a time when Republicans are struggling to recruit candidates.
Republicans say it’s too soon to sweat the Democratic incumbents’ fundraising. Though the first midterm election of a new presidency is typically a referendum on the commander in chief and favors the party out of power in the White House, no one knows how Trump will be perceived 18 months from now. It’s also noteworthy that the Republican Senate campaign arm outraised its Democratic counterpart.
Still, Democrats are cautiously optimistic that they can, at least, stanch additional hemorrhaging in the Senate — after a 2016 election in which the party was widely expected to win control of the chamber.