Skip to content
The Morning Dispatch: Democratic Senate Candidates Raise 'Staggering' Amounts of Cash
Go to my account

The Morning Dispatch: Democratic Senate Candidates Raise ‘Staggering’ Amounts of Cash

Plus, revisiting Sweden's choice not to enforce strict lockdowns.

Happy Wednesday! Let’s do this thing.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • As of Tuesday night, 2,993,759 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States (an increase of 58,043 from yesterday) and 131,455 deaths have been attributed to the virus (an increase of 1,171 from yesterday, likely due to a holiday weekend backlog), according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, leading to a mortality rate among confirmed cases of 4.4 percent (the true mortality rate is likely much lower, between 0.4 percent and 1.4 percent, but it’s impossible to determine precisely due to incomplete testing regimens). Of 36,878,106 coronavirus tests conducted in the United States (845,777 conducted since yesterday), 8.1 percent have come back positive.

  • The Trump administration formally alerted the World Health Organization of its plans to pull out of the U.N. agency on Tuesday. The withdrawal won’t take effect until next July, meaning the move hinges on November’s election: Biden said the U.S. would remain a member if he wins.

  • The Chinese-owned video streaming app TikTok announced on Tuesday its plans to pull out of Hong Kong, citing concerns over Beijing’s new national security law. India banned the app last week in response to the country’s recent border dispute with China. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that the United States is considering banning the app as well.

  • As part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $1.6 billion to Novavax in exchange for 100 million doses of the biotech company’s COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently in early testing. If the vaccine is determined to be safe and effective, it could begin being distributed by the end of this year.

  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday.

  • After a violent weekend across Atlanta—during which 31 people were shot and five, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed—Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency and authorizing the activation of 1,000 national guard troops to protect state buildings and patrol the streets of Atlanta.

Democratic Senate Candidates Shatter Fundraising Records

For political hobbyists, end-of-quarter campaign fundraising deadlines carry with them the excitement of an NFL playoff game. Four months from a presidential election, they’re the Super Bowl.

We covered the top-of-the-ticket numbers for Q2 last Thursday: Joe Biden and the DNC out-raised President Trump and the RNC $141 million to $131 million. Now, fundraising hauls for U.S. Senate races have begun trickling out—and Democrats have to like what they see.

Amy McGrath—who just won the right to square off against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky—raised $17.4 million. Jaime Harrison, running against Sen. Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, brought in $13.9 million. Sara Gideon, challenging Susan Collins in Maine, raised more than $9 million. Steve Bullock in Montana, $7.7 million, and Cal Cunningham in North Carolina, $7.4 million. Several of those payloads shattered single-quarter records in their respective states.

We texted a GOP operative working with a Senate campaign this cycle about the news. Their response: “Hiding under covers dot gif.”

McConnell, Graham, and most other GOP incumbents have yet to file their Q2 reports—they have until July 15—but even allies concede that they’re not going to match some of these mind-boggling figures from Democrats. Some reactions to the likely discrepancy from various Republican strategists we talked to: “Disturbing.” “Staggering.” “Causing a lot of concern.” “[Democrats] smell a big victory.”

Republicans currently hold 53 seats in the Senate, meaning, to secure a majority, Democrats need to hold all their seats and pick off three GOP incumbents if Biden wins (the vice president breaks all ties in the Senate), or four if he doesn’t. Up until a month or two ago, this seemed like a longshot. But Trump’s June polling collapse—coupled with Republicans having to defend 23 seats to the Democrats’s 12—has rendered the idea of Majority Leader Chuck Schumer significantly less far-fetched.

“Whenever you’re looking at a flipping of one of the chambers, the real sign that it’s possible … is that the map seems to keep expanding, and that you’re seriously talking about things that you weren’t six weeks ago,” said Doug Heye, Capitol Hill veteran and former Republican National Committee communications director. “I don’t think we know yet whether we’re having the serious substantive conversations on particular states just because of the numbers or because of some wishful thinking. But that’s real, that’s the scenario that we’re in.”

Money isn’t everything. Beto O’Rourke rather famously raised close to $80 million in his hyper-nationalized 2018 race against Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz ($10.4 million in Q2 2018), only to lose to Cruz—who raised “only” $38.9 million—by 2.6 points. At this point, it remains highly unlikely McConnell or Graham will be defeated in ruby-red Kentucky and South Carolina—no matter how much money their opponents raise or “wishful thinking” the Beltway elicits. McConnell won his 2014 race by nearly 16 points; Graham by almost 18.

But if the current political environment—Trump trailing Biden by 10 points, generic congressional ballot polling showing a similar deficit—holds up, a lot of breaks will have to go Republicans’ way for the party to be competitive in November. Multimillion-dollar fundraising deficits don’t help. “In order for Republican Senate candidates in red states to either run on par with—or slightly ahead of—the president, they have to have the money to be able to tell voters that their opponent is unacceptable,” a GOP strategist involved with Senate races said. “And to the extent that they can’t get that message out, they’re not going to be able to win.”

“The Republicans should have supported campaign finance reform a decade ago,” GOP pollster and communications consultant Frank Luntz told The Dispatch. “The Democratic advantage in big dollar and dark money donations could flip the Senate and keep the House in Democratic hands for a decade.”

Under 2002’s Bipartisan Campaign Reform (McCain-Feingold) Act, individual donors are limited to $2,800 in contributions per candidate for federal office per election. But the small-dollar fundraising success of candidates like Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump has changed the game—and more establishment Republicans are struggling to catch up. “There are a handful of Republican Senate candidates whose campaign fundraising strategies rely almost entirely on large-dollar, event-driven fundraisers. And in the era of a pandemic, that strategy does not work,” one GOP strategist said. “Democrats have been well-organized on this front through ActBlue for several cycles, it’s socialized on their side, and the technology is humming. … Republican campaigns were begged at the beginning of this cycle to diversify their fundraising strategy and not only rely on large-dollar events and traditional mail programs, but to invest in online digital prospecting. And some consultants just flat resisted it because they weren’t familiar with it.”

Perhaps more important than the money itself, however, is what it signifies: voter enthusiasm. Polls have shown Biden trailing Trump by this metric; the former vice president’s voters generally report being less enthusiastic to vote for him than Trump voters are to vote for his re-election. But this week’s fundraising numbers—particularly small-dollar donations like the 95 percent of Sara Gideon’s that were under $200—may support the thesis that Democratic voters are plenty enthusiastic, just about defeating Trump and his allies.

“Democratic donors are motivated,” Heye said. “Democrats feel more motivated than Republicans do.”

An Update on the Swedish COVID Contrarians

When most nations went into some form of lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus in March, Sweden made the controversial decision to remain open, only banning gatherings of more than 50 people and closing schools for students ages 16 and up. The government discouraged nonessential travel, but kept its public institutions—bars, restaurants, schools, gyms, museums and so on—open to the public. 

The country’s laissez-faire approach stood in stark contrast to the government-imposed shelter-in-place orders in most other countries, rendering Sweden essentially a control variable in the COVID-19 intervention experiment. What would happen if a government allowed life to proceed as normal in the midst of a global pandemic?

The results of that experiment are becoming more apparent. And they don’t look good. 

The country’s COVID-19 death rate per capita now places it among the highest in the world, and much higher than its Scandinavian neighbors that largely share Sweden’s demography but implemented more stringent lockdown measures. As of Tuesday, Denmark, Finland, and Norway had COVID-19 death rates of 10.5, 5.9, and 4.6 per 100,000, respectively; Sweden’s was 53.9 per 100,000. (For reference, the United States’ is 40.5 per 100,000.)

Swedish authorities have begun to admit to flaws in their approach, with the prime minister last week ordering an investigation into the country’s coronavirus response. Anders Tergnell, the country’s top epidemiologist, told Swedish radio last month there was “quite obviously a potential for improvement in what we have done,” and that “absolutely” too many Swedes had died from the coronavirus. “If we were to run into the same disease, knowing exactly what we know about it today, I think we would end up doing something in between what Sweden did and what the rest of the world has done,” he said.

Like in New York, a disproportionate amount of Sweden’s coronavirus deaths were concentrated in nursing and elderly care homes. “There was tremendous mortality among people in long-term care facilities,” says Stefan Baral, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health who grew up in Sweden. “It was often related to family visiting, but it was also related to staff moving between long-term care facilities, acquiring COVID either in their home or in their workplace setting and moving it from place to place. So there were a number of interventions that could have been implemented early on.”

One of the main justifications for keeping the country open was to avoid the detrimental economic effects of a lockdown, with authorities saying they trusted the Swedish people to make safe health decisions for themselves. But Sweden’s disastrous mortality rate was accompanied by a sharp economic decline all the same: The country’s central bank has forecasted its economy will shrink by 4.5 percent this year, compared with Denmark’s projected economic shrinkage of 4.1 percent.

The comparably high death rates in Sweden tell a damning story. But they also aren’t the whole story. “It’s worth noting that mortality [in Sweden] has actually dropped dramatically,” says Baral. “You did see these surges in April and May, which are tragic. But it’s kind of gone back to baseline, and that’s just an important element to note: Mortality hasn’t been anywhere near where it was initially expected, even though its case counts obviously continue to be higher than some of its neighbors.”

But Sweden’s initial failure to contain the outbreak has led many to criticize the government’s hands-off response. The country’s Scandinavian neighbors have barred Swedes from entering their countries as they begin to open up to tourism, and polls show the Swedish people’s confidence in their government’s response has fallen significantly in recent months. “The Swedish government has deliberately allowed a large spread of the disease,” said Ebba Busch, the leader of the opposition Christian Democrat party. “In a difficult crisis, we will always be leaderless as long as this government is in power.”

The Coming China Technology Squabble

We’ve repeatedly written about the diplomatic and economic tug-of-war taking place between the U.S. and China over the building of the United Kingdom’s next-generation wireless network. China has been pushing the U.K. (and much of the rest of the world) to build out 5G networks with help from their own telecom giant Huawei; the U.S., which sees Huawei-built networks as a serious intelligence and privacy risk, has rallied its allies to freeze the corporation out.

In early 2020, it seemed the U.S. had lost that fight. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was facing a powerful Chinese carrot-and-stick approach, which included heavy subsidies that allowed Huawei to offer unbeatable prices and dire warnings of economic withdrawal if Huawei were not allowed in for business. He announced in January that Huawei would be heavily involved in building non-“core” parts of Britain’s 5G network—a largely meaningless face-saving distinction.

But after months of bad international PR for China, from the pandemic to its increasingly despotic moves in Hong Kong to the ongoing spotlight on its treatment of the Uighurs and other ethnic minorities within its borders, the momentum seems to be swinging the other way. The prospects of the U.K.-Huawei deal have soured as the British public has grown more distrustful of the Chinese regime. This week, Johnson gave his strongest signals yet that his government is backing away from the deal, telling reporters he was “determined that the U.K. should not be in any way vulnerable to a high-risk state vendor.”

While the political calculus has clearly changed, it’s worth pointing out that many British experts argue there are also sound policy reasons for Johnson to have changed his mind. Former M16 head John Sawers said Sunday that new U.S. sanctions on Huawei mean “reliable non-Chinese suppliers … can no longer work with the company,” meaning partnering with Huawei is now a riskier prospect than it was back in January.

At the same time, it was no secret in January that Washington had serious concerns about Huawei and was prepared to flex considerable muscle to limit its global reach. So perhaps there’s something to the more cynical perspective that the British simply didn’t expect the Americans to follow through on their warnings.

Naturally, Beijing is far from thrilled at the change. Their essential response has been “we can’t help it if you’d rather be America’s sidekick than your own global power,” and they’ve made their position very clear that the path to success in the 21st century lies through partnership with China. “You cannot have a golden era,” Chinese ambassador to Britain Liu Xaioming said Monday, “if you treat China as an enemy.”

“You succumb to foreign pressure and you cannot make your own independent foreign policy,” he added. “I always say Britain can only be great when it can have its independent foreign policy.”

With the Huawei affair shifting so unexpectedly in another direction, the next thing to be seen is whether the U.S. will try to push the advantage with a broader crackdown on Chinese tech. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested as much Monday, telling reporters the Trump administration was looking into the possibility of banning Chinese social media apps like the wildly popular TikTok in the States. 

“With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you the United States will get this one right too,” he said. “I don’t want to get out in front of the president, but it’s something we’re looking at.”

Worth Your Time

  • Yesterday, Harper’s Magazine published a public letter highlighting the importance of “justice and open debate,” featuring signatories such as Jonathan Haidt, Francis Fukukama, Margaret Atwood, Michael Walzer, J.K. Rowling and Noam Chomsky. “The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away,” the letter reads. “We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other.”

  • The Daily Beast recently uncovered a network of fake personas that have published more than 90 opinion pieces in 46 different publications, many on the right, including Newsmax, The Washington Examiner, RealClear Markets, and The American Thinker. “The articles heaped praise on the United Arab Emirates and advocated for a tougher approach to Qatar, Turkey, Iran and its proxy groups in Iraq and Lebanon,” Adam Rawnsley writes. “This vast influence operation highlights the ease with which malicious actors can exploit the identity of real people, dupe international news outlets, and have propaganda of unknown provenance legitimized through reputable media,” said Marc Owen Jones, the first person to recognize the network’s suspicious activity.

  • Tech millionaires are creating a new species of political affiliation: the “liberaltarian.” Stanford political economists Edith M. Cornell and David Brockman discussed the origins of this great migration of tech entrepreneurs to the left in a recent Stanford Graduate School of Business interview, where they explain why this demographic is “moving the Democratic Party to the left on almost every issue except government regulation.”

Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • In the latest French Press (🔒), David makes the case for “healthy federalism” as an antidote to toxic polarization. As the United States grows increasingly diverse—in religion, race, and ideology—government better serves the needs of the individual at the local level. “A highly polarized nation is ill-suited for continued consolidation of power in the federal government, much less in the executive branch of federal government,” he writes.

  • Columbia University linguist John McWhorter joined Jonah on The Remnant yesterday to talk about the shifting nature of language, “literally,” and the grammar police.

  • Although Gen-Zers have splashed across headlines for partying en masse and engaging in other coronavirus spreading activities, data show us that these incidents don’t speak for the whole. AEI fellow and politics professor at Sarah Lawrence College Samuel J. Abrams explains why for the most part, young people are doing their part to stave off the spread of COVID-19.

Let Us Know

Do you donate to political campaigns? If so, what usually motivates you to give to one candidate over another?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Sarah Isgur (@whignewtons), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Audrey Fahlberg (@FahlOutBerg), Nate Hochman (@njhochman), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).

Photograph of Kentucky Senate candidate Amy McGrath by Jason Davis/Getty Images.