Does the Democrats’ Cash Advantage Matter?

Democratic nominees in nine of the 10 most competitive U.S. Senate races are leading their Republican challengers on fundraising. But if Democrats retain control of the upper chamber, money won’t be the sole reason. 

Second quarter Federal Election Commission reports show that Democratic Senate nominees in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado, Washington and New Hampshire had all out-raised and outspent their GOP opponents as of June 30. Only in Wisconsin did the Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson, lead his Democratic opponent.  

Candidates need serious cash to introduce themselves to voters and spread their message, but once they reach a certain baseline, even tens of millions of extra dollars don’t do much. At that point, election analysts say, fundamentals—candidate quality, the president’s approval rating, a state’s partisan lean, and kitchen-table concerns like inflation—make the difference. 

Consider the last cycle. In 2020, Democratic Senate candidate Amy McGrath raised—and spent—more than $20 million more than then-Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She also lost by roughly 20 points. The trend repeated in races across the country—including South Carolina, Kansas, and Maine—demonstrating that candidates can’t simply “buy” Senate seats in hostile terrain.

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