The influx of campaign cash came fast and furious.
Democratic challengers to GOP incumbent senators in states such as Arizona, Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina and even Alaska saw an instant infusion into their campaign coffers.
“It’s clear that Democratic voters and donors who are already very highly motivated to take back the Senate are now doubly so motivated based on the influx of cash that virtually all Democratic candidates received,” a Democratic strategist involved in Senate races told Fox News.
In total, tens of millions of dollars – and counting – poured into the campaigns of Senate Democrats, with at least a dozen of the candidates hauling in more $1 million each. The surge inflated a fundraising advantage Senate Democratic candidates had enjoyed for months.
“We were already seeing a green wave forming for Democrats in fundraising over the past year. Ginsburg’s death accelerated that to a green tsunami that is still growing. That can really provide a late influx of cash for some of these campaigns that really needed it,” Jessica Taylor, who closely tracks and reports on Senate races for the nonpartisan political handicapper The Cook Report, told Fox News.
“It shows that the issue of the court is not one that just motivates Republicans, it’s motivating Democrats as well,” Taylor emphasized.
The fierce fight over the push by President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to fill the progressive Ginsburg’s held seat with a conservative justice with just six weeks to go until the November election, when control of the presidency and the Senate are up for grabs, has upended an already toxic battle for control of the upper chamber of Congress.
The GOP enjoys a 53-47 majority in the Senate, but Republicans are defending 23 of the 35 Senate seats up for grabs this year. And while more than a half-dozen GOP seats are considered battlegrounds, Democrats are defending just one or two vulnerable incumbents. Democrats need to pick up four seats to grab control of the chamber – or three if the ticket of Democratic nominee Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris wins the White House. The vice president serves as the tie-breaking vote when the upper chamber is deadlocked.
The infusion of campaign cash should allow some of these Democratic challengers to increase their ad buys or boost their get-out-the-vote efforts during the final stretch – and it comes as early absentee and in-person voting is already underway in some of the Senate battlegrounds. But the fundraising surge is far from a guarantee of success. Many of the seats the Democrats need to flip from red to blue are in states President Trump won four years ago. And the battle over Ginsburg’s successor could possibly unite conservatives like no other issue has galvanized them this year.
“It’s too early to tell in some of these races how much this will move numbers because a lot of states are extremely polarized. I think in states that Trump lost, it’s very much going to hurt the GOP incumbents in those states,” Taylor noted.
Among those states is Maine, where GOP incumbent Susan Collins has represented her state in the Senate for nearly a quarter-century. The race in Maine was already focused on the Supreme Court – courtesy of Collins’ controversial vote in favor of the 2018 confirmation of Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Taylor highlighted that “this brings back up that issue at a time she doesn’t need it even though she is one of only two GOP senators that oppose” confirming a new high court justice until Americans elect a new president.
An average of the latest polls in the race compiled by Real Clear Politics indicates Collins is trailing Democratic challenger and Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon by six points.
The confirmation battle also likely does no favors for Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who faces a very challenging reelection in a purple state that’s trending blue against former two-term Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“He was already facing incredibly tough headwinds and this makes the calculation so much tougher. He is now the decided underdog in that race,” Taylor said. “The Supreme Court issue has turned what was already a national race even more so.”
But the spotlight on the Supreme Court could help other Republican incumbents also facing extremely challenging runs for a new term in the Senate. Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are running behind the president’s numbers in their purple states. Both senators announced this week that they back the president’s push to immediately confirm a new justice – moves that may help them consolidate support from some Trump voters in their states.
It’s also potentially benefiting to GOP Rep. Roger Marshall of Kansas, who’s running to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts in a state that’s becoming increasingly competitive but still remains very red at the federal level.
The Supreme Court battle will also likely impact Iowa and Georgia – where Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and David Perdue are locked in tough reelection bids with their Democratic challengers.
And then there’s South Carolina, where Senate Judiciary Chairman and longtime Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is facing a challenging reelection for the first time.
Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, who made history as the state’s first Black Democratic Party chair, hauled in $10 million last month. He brought in millions more in the days after Ginsburg’s death.
“You have a Democratic base that energized for the first time in a long time with a legitimate candidate with what seems like unlimited money,” Taylor spotlighted.
Now, Graham’s own words from 2016 are being used against him.
During the 2016 presidential election, McConnell denied any confirmation hearing for federal appeals court Judge Merrick Garland, who was former President Obama’s nominee to fill the seat of the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Graham – in a soundbite that’s been played repeatedly the past couple of days – said at the time that “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term … you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.”
Opponents of the senator are taking Graham up on his offer.
The anti-Trump GOP super PAC The Lincoln Project is teaming up with the anti-Graham group Lindsey Must Go to spend nearly $1 million to run a new TV ad in South Carolina that spotlights Graham’s own words as they target what they call the senator’s “Supreme Court hypocrisy.”
The latest poll in the race, from Quinnipiac University, shows the two candidates tied, although Graham charges the survey vastly under samples GOP voters.