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The blue money wave in Senate races

Data: Advertising Analytics; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Democrats are trouncing Republicans on the airwaves in the battle for the Senate, outspending them in nine of the top 10 competitive Senate races.

Why it matters: Even before President Trump's COVID diagnosis, Republicans were growing increasingly concerned that Democrats' money advantage could flip control of the Senate.


  • While some outside super PAC money for the GOP is starting to even it up, Republican candidates have been outspent for the year, according to data provided to Axios by Advertising Analytics.
  • Democrats need to pick up four seats to win the majority — or effectively three if Joe Biden wins the presidency, because his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, would break a 50-50 tie as vice president.

The big picture: Traditionally, incumbent senators have a fundraising edge, but it's different this cycle thanks to unlimited contributions from Democratic super PACs as well as highly-motivated small donors.

  • Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court helped feed that bump.
Data: Advertising Analytics; Chart: Axios Visuals

By the numbers: In North Carolina, the most expensive Senate race this year, Democratic groups have outspent Republicans $116 million to $78 million.

  • Democrat Cal Cunningham was leading incumbent Thom Tillis by 6 percentage points in the average of polls tracked by Real Clear Politics — though that data was compiled before reports of texts between Cunningham and a woman who's not his wife.
  • In Iowa, incumbent Joni Ernst has been collectively outspent by groups supporting Democrat Theresa Greenfield, $87 million to $66 million, with polls giving the challenger a slight lead.

What they’re saying: “I’m getting overwhelmed,” South Carolina Republican and incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham said on Fox News last week. “LindseyGraham.com. Help me. They’re killing me, money-wise. Help me. You helped me last week — help me again. LindseyGraham.com.”

  • Tillis charged in a debate: “Within 48 hours of Justice Ginsburg’s death Cal Cunningham had $6 million channeled to his campaign from some of the most radical left organizations who expect him to use the rubber stamp to confirm activist judges."
  • Republicans acknowledge their fundraising deficit, but are criticizing Democrats for relying on super PACs like the Senate Majority PAC, which has spent some $127 million on TV ads this year, according to Advertising Analytics.
  • “All cycle Democrats have relied on dark money and special interest groups to attack Republican senators while candidates disingenuously bemoan their existence,” said Jesse Hunt, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

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