The GOP’s grassroots money problem


Democrats in the 10 most contested Senate elections outpace Republicans by more than $75 million among small-dollar donors — those who donate less than $200 — according to an Axios analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

The big picture: Inflation, Trump-induced donor fatigue, and other factors are affecting the GOP base, causing Republican candidates to rely more heavily on high-dollar donors.

Between the lines: One Republican who is seeing tremendous success in raising loose cash is Donald Trump, whose political operation has raised more than $60 million this cycle from donors under $200.

  • But Trump isn’t a 2022 candidate, and he’s channeled only a tiny portion of his war chest to GOP midterm hopefuls.

Why it matters: A concerted Republican effort to build a small-dollar fundraising apparatus independent of Trump’s brand appears to be faltering as Democrats build on the massive grassroots financial success they’ve seen in 2020.

Zoom in: Even the GOP’s best small-buck performers are swamped by the huge grassroots support on the other side.

  • As of June 30, Herschel Walker of Georgia raised nearly $8 million in “united” donations. But incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock has raised $14 million in loose change through June.
  • In Florida, GOP Senator Marco Rubio has reported small donations totaling nearly $12.7 million. Democratic challenger Val Demings more than doubled that small dollar sum.

The biggest gap is located in Arizona, where Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly’s re-election campaign raised nearly $23 million from pocket change donors.

  • His top three potential GOP challengers — Blake Masters, Jim Lamon, and Mark Brnovich — have collectively grossed less than $2 million.

Just a Republican In those 10 contests, he outperforms his Democratic competition in grassroots money.

  • Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has raised nearly $5 million in fundraising, narrowly beating the combined total of his top three potential Democratic challengers.

The other side: The GOP’s high-dollar donors keep the money race competitive. And Republican national party committees are breaking fundraising records.

  • Their top super PACs in the House and Senate — the Senate Leadership Fund and the Congressional Leadership Fund — both outperform their Democratic counterparts by a considerable margin.
  • Super PACs, which support candidates like Ohio’s JD Vance and Arizona’s Blake Masters, are making up for some of the funding gaps. Others, like Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz, are pouring millions into their own campaigns.

Flashback: Democrats continued to dominate among small-dollar donors in 2020, contributing to record-breaking fundraising among the party’s top Senate recruits.

  • This disparity spurred some Republicans to try to boost their team’s grassroots cash operations, including using this Super PAC success to try to set up small fundraising programs for candidates.

Yes but: Money is not everything. The flood of Democratic base money in 2020 channeled millions to candidates like Kentucky’s Amy McGrath, who still lost by double digits.

The bottom line: The GOP’s fundraising problems — in addition to campaigning for flawed or extreme candidates — are adding to fears of a Senate debacle in what is otherwise a pro-Republican political environment.


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