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Democratic Senate challengers shatter money records, boosting their hopes of flipping chamber from Republicans

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Democrat Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and first-time candidate seeking to oust Republican Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona, raised more than $38.7 million in the July-to-September fundraising quarter, his campaign announced Thursday. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat trying to knock off first-term Republican Sen. Steve Daines, took in nearly $27 million, which his campaign said topped state records.

And in Kentucky, home to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, filings from his Democratic rival, Amy McGrath, show she has collected more than $36.8 million in her bid to topple the Senate’s top Republican.

In all, at least eight Democratic challengers have announced fundraising totals that top $20 million during the third quarter, ahead of a midnight deadline for candidates to file reports with federal regulators that detail their recent political activity.

His haul is more than twice the $28 million raised by his opponent, three-term Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who finds himself a target of Democratic ire and dollars, as one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders in the Senate. But Harrison has spent heavily and entered the final full month of the campaign with just shy of $8 million in available cash in his campaign account, filings show.

Before this year, the most a Senate candidate had ever raised in a single quarter was the $38.1 million that Democrat Beto O’Rourke collected near the end of his unsuccessful 2018 race against GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas.

“President Donald Trump is the best fundraiser Democrats could ever ask for,” said Nathan Gonzales, the editor and publisher of Inside Elections and a CNN contributor.

“Democrats took 2016 for granted and didn’t believe he could be elected president,” Gonzales said. “But after four years of Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Democratic donors are determined to make sure that he doesn’t get a second term, and they are trying to purge as many Republicans as possible.”

Senate Republicans faced difficult terrain from the start of the campaign season: They hold a narrow majority in the chamber and must defend more seats than Democrats. In November, Democrats need to net just four seats to flip the Senate, or three should Democrat Joe Biden win the presidency and Kamala Harris become the tie-breaking vote in the chamber as vice president.

And in perhaps the biggest sign of Democratic enthusiasm, ActBlue, the fundraising platform for Democratic candidates and causes, announced Thursday that it had processed a whopping $1.5 billion in donations between July 1 and Sept. 30.

That swamps the $623.5 million that the relatively new Republican online platform WinRed said it had collected during the same period.

Other Democratic Senate challengers posting big numbers in the third quarter include:

  • Theresa Greenfield in Iowa, who has raised nearly $29 million. She’s trying to topple Republican Sen. Joni Ernst.
  • Former two-term Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has raised $22.6 million in his race against Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.
  • North Carolina’s Cal Cunningham, who raised $28.3 million against Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.
  • Georgia candidate Jon Ossoff, who announced a $21.3 million haul in the race against Republican Sen. David Perdue.
  • Kansas state Sen. Barbara Bollier, whose campaign said she had broke the three-month fundraising record for any candidate in the state by bringing in nearly $13.5 million for the quarter. She’s running against Republican Rep. Roger Marshall in a traditionally red state.

The strong Democratic fundraising is powering a significant edge in advertising entering the final weeks of the campaign. Across the 10 most expensive US Senate races this cycle, Democrats are outspending Republicans by about $670 million to $547 million, a CNN tally of Kantar/CMAG data shows.

Other campaigns are reaping big sums, too.

Biden and affiliated Democratic Party committees this week announced a $383 million haul in September alone, his second month in a row of record-breaking hauls. Online donations accounted for more than half the total.

Trump’s campaign has not yet announced its September fundraising numbers, but Biden entered the fall campaign season with a significant financial advantage over the President, has used that money to blanket the airwaves in key battlegrounds and has begun to run ads to compete with Trump in some traditionally red states such as Texas.

In the past two weeks alone, Biden’s campaign has spent $56 million on 80,000 television advertising spots — far surpassing the $32 million Trump’s campaign has invested in roughly 32,000 ad airings, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Wesleyan Media Project and the Center for Responsive Politics.

CNN’s David Wright contributed to this report.

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