One of the big questions of 2018 is whether the Democrats hoped-for “Blue Wave” will materialize this November. President Donald Trump’s unpopularity has not necessarily translated into a boost for the Democrats, however. Generic party preference polls have been up and down with Republicans even leading at times. New Federal Election Commission data shows that donors are already voting with their wallets and it paints a bleak picture for the GOP.
Politico analyzed FEC filings for the second quarter and found that Democrats in 56 House districts outraised their Republican opponents. In 16 cases, House Republicans finished the quarter with less cash on hand than their Democrat challenger while there were no cases in which House Democrats had less money than their Republican challenger.
In battleground districts, many contested due to retiring Republicans, more than two dozen Democrats led the Republican in fundraising. In 19 of these tossup districts, the Democrat had more cash on hand than the Republican.
In all, 22 Democrats running in Republican districts raised more than $1 million over the past three months, a difficult accomplishment for challengers, many of whom are relatively unknown. These Democrats received large one-time contributions from liberal organizations such as Daily Kos and Swing Left in addition to donations from online sources, Democrats around the country and donors within their districts. Only three Democrats earned more than $1 million purely from their own donors.
While several sitting Republicans raised more than $1 million, other GOP incumbents are lagging. Among the vulnerable incumbents are Dana Rohrabacher in California and Dave Brat of Virginia.
The Democrat fundraising advantage is partly offset by large donations to the Republican super PAC that is backing House candidates. The Congressional Leadership Fund received a record $51 million in the second quarter to add to the more than $70 million already in the bank, but many analysts argue that the lack of giving to specific Republican candidates points to a problem at the district level.
The Republican fundraising picture is looking worse than the Democrats in 2010 prior to the Tea Party wave. In the second quarter of 2010, 44 incumbent Democrats trailed Republicans in fundraising and eight Republicans had more cash on hand than their incumbent opponent. In that election, Republicans gained 60 House seats.
Campaign money does not necessarily translate into votes. In past races, Democratic fundraising has not always helped their candidates win the seat. For example, in 2017 Democrat Jon Ossoff set fundraising records for a special election in Georgia, but ultimately lost the election.
Nevertheless, campaigns flush with cash have an easier time getting out their message and motivating voters. In local races, name recognition can count for a lot and campaigns with money can blanket the airwaves and street corners with the candidate’s name and picture. Campaign contributions are also a measure of the level of support for a candidate.
“From a money standpoint, it’s scary. From a turnout perspective and what all this money means for intensity [in November], that’s even scarier,” said Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster who focuses on House races.
“This is shaping up to be the Democratic equivalent of the 2010 Republican year, and a lot of these members have never seen this or run in a cycle like it before,” Bolger added. “But the list of outraised candidates is getting longer, not shorter.”
The Congressional Leadership Fund’s executive director, Corry Bliss, said that the PAC money will blunt the Democratic advantage, but seemed to acknowledge that some Republican seats will be lost.
“Those who are not willing to help themselves should not complain when outside support does not come their way,” Bliss said.
Chris LaCivita, a Republican consultant agreed that the fundraising problems spell trouble for Republican incumbents despite the Republican advantage in PAC money.
“If you allow yourself to be outraised, then you are inviting trouble,” LaCivita said. “In a midterm election with your party in power, trouble generally equates to defeat.”
“These guys need to wake up and take a look in the mirror and decide — do they want to be reelected?” he added.
Originally published on The Resurgent