Oct 23, 2020 | OPINION | By Emma McDermott | Illustration by Xixi Qin
The most recent Federal Election Commission (FEC) report shows Republicans losing big when it comes to fundraising. This could leave some red states looking blue come November.
The Federal Election Commission requires candidates running for public office to report their campaign’s quarterly earnings, and Oct. 15 was the deadline for the third quarter of 2020. This report, released to the public, revealed that fundraising records were broken between the months of July, August, and September, almost entirely in favor of the Democrats.
There are a few possible reasons for the increased volume of donations: this was the last chance to report quarterly earnings before the Nov. 3 election, and the passing of beloved Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg encouraged people to open their wallets. But I think something even bigger might be happening. Money was dumped, by the millions, into former Republican strongholds, and I suspect this report is symbolic of many near and down-the-road successes for the Democratic Party.
To start, let’s look at South Carolina, where incumbent Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is in a tough race against Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison. Remember, this is South Carolina we’re talking about. The Confederate flag flew above the State House until just five years ago, and that necessary change was demanded by visionary activists like Bree Newsome after the brutal, racist killings of nine churchgoers at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
South Carolina is not an easy place for Democrats to win, yet Graham only raised $28 million while Harrison raised $57 million in the third quarter, shattering the record previously held by Beto O’Rourke’s $38 million in the third quarter of 2018 in his bid for Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat. Any time Graham has an audience now –– like a Fox News anchor or the Senate Judiciary Committee –– he all but panhandles for donations. Knowing Graham’s character, this is likely a political stunt meant only to rile up his base and distract from the real issues facing the U.S. and South Carolina, but nevertheless, South Carolina is in play this election.
Harrison will still likely lose to Graham, but I don’t think that means Democrats should lose hope. For Graham to have to worry about reelection means that Republicans are vulnerable in states that should be secure, and I expect that Democrats will be able to capitalize greatly on this vulnerability, in South Carolina and beyond, in the next two or three elections.
On the other side of the country, Arizona is poised to turn fully blue. Yes, the state of historic conservatives like Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barry Goldwater has the chance to elect two Democratic senators and swing towards Joe Biden.
This is a special election Senate race, because Republican Sen. Martha McSally — appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey after the passing of Sen. McCain — is up for reelection. The challenger is Mark Kelly, astronaut, engineer, former U.S. Navy captain, and husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
According to the third quarter FEC report, McSally brought in $22.6 million while Kelly hauled in $38.8 million. McSally was caught on tape asking supporters, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, to “fast a meal and give what that would be,” according to The Arizona Republic. This is undoubtedly a very vulnerable Republican seat. The donation numbers are shocking. A state I always saw as bright red on electoral maps is starting to look blue.
Northeast, in Maine, Republican Sen. Susan Collins is up for reelection in a seat that, six years ago, Democrats would have probably never considered a possibility to steal. Yet here we are, with Republicans on the defense in Maine on behalf of Collins, formerly one of the most popular politicians in the entire Senate. She is challenged by the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Maine, Sara Gideon.
According to the FEC, Collins raised a meager $8.3 million to Sara Gideon’s $39.4 million in the third quarter. These numbers are staggering. It is almost unbelievable to think that there is a $31 million difference between these two campaigns, but, then again, it is almost unbelievable to think that Collins replaced Sen. Mitch McConnell as the most unpopular senator earlier this year, in popularity ratings published quarterly by Morning Consult.
Campaign fundraising matters. Having a lot of money doesn’t guarantee that a candidate will win an election, but it certainly helps. And, even more than that, I think campaign donations can be strong indicators of how people feel about candidates and what direction the country is moving. Campaign donations are pouring into the pockets of Democratic candidates, and I think this means the Democratic Party is going to see much success in upcoming elections. The progress may be slow, but Republican strongholds are under siege and it is only a matter of time before the electorate reflects that.