- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Anti-Trump donors are opening their checkbooks wide this year, helping Democratic candidates set early fundraising records as they hope to send a message in November’s elections.

Democrats running in Senate races across the country have been eager to share their latest fundraising totals with the political universe as they seek to generate a sense of momentum ahead of the midterm elections.

“I think the most important thing that these numbers say is that the Democratic base is very fired up,” said Jennifer Duffy, of the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan campaign tracker.

The was more positive news for Democrats out of Ohio on Tuesday as Sen. Sherrod Brown’s campaign claimed the Democrat set a new mark for first quarter fundraising in Ohio after raking in $3.3 million since the beginning of the year.

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly announced earlier this week that he pulled in $1.63 million since the beginning of the year, marking a new personal best in his quest to win a second term in a state President Trump carried by almost 20 points. And in Missouri, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said the momentum is building behind her campaign after “shattering Missouri fundraising records with over $3.9 million raised” over the last three months.

It remains to be seen whether the strong fundraising is a sign of good things to come at the ballot box this fall, where they are hoping political blowback against Mr. Trump could help them takeover the House and perhaps even the Senate.

“Senate Democrats’ strong fundraising reflects the wave of grass-roots support and enthusiasm that will help propel our campaigns to victory in November,” said David Bergstein, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “The GOP agenda spikes health care costs and hikes taxes on working families in order to help the wealthy and well connected, but voters are backing Senate Democrats because we’re fighting to put the interests of working families first.”

Republicans are downplaying the financial blustering from Democrats.

“No amount of campaign cash is going to be enough to make red state voters forget their Democrat Senator abandoned them to vote in lockstep with their party leaders in Washington,” said Bob Salera, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm. “These endangered Democrats are getting rewarded by liberal donors now, but they will pay a steep price come November.”

The playing field still favors Republicans. Democrats are defending 26 seats, including 10 in states that Mr. Trump carried in 2016.

Republicans got some good news this week when Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced he was running against Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson, giving the GOP a deep-pocketed candidate who can tap into his personal fortune if need be.

The Republican National Committee also has so far easily outpaced the Democratic National Committee in fundraising and super PACs and other outside groups also are sure to play a big role in competitive races.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, sounded the alarm last week about the midterms, telling Kentucky Today that the “win is going to be in our face” and “we don’t know whether it’s going to be a Category 3, 4, or 5” hurricane.

The strong fundraising from Democratic candidates has not been just isolated to incumbents, as sitting Republicans watched their prospective general election rivals post big numbers.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke raised $6.7 million in his quest to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, setting a new yardstick for candidates in the state that are not self-funded. Another campaign claimed to break a record was broken in Nevada, as Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is running against Sen. Dean Heller, boasted the $2.6 million she raised is “the most ever raised for the first quarter of an election year in a U.S. Senate race in Nevada.”

The eagerness to share their fundraising reports contrasted with many Republicans who have chosen to keep their cards close to vest.

“With few exceptions Republicans had a very disappointing fourth quarter and I think that they need to show in the first quarter that they have turned things around,” Mrs. Duffy said. “One could surmise that we are not seeing numbers because they didn’t but I think it is unfair to say that until we actually know for sure.”

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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