Republicans have a significant monetary advantage over Democrats in the midterm congressional elections scheduled for Nov. 6—or do they?
It depends how you slice up the financial data.
The stakes are high this year. The composition of Congress will determine whether Americans will hear about President Donald Trump’s ambitious reform agenda in the lead-up to what promises to be a bitterly contested presidential election in 2020, or be bombarded day and night with news of endless congressional investigations of the administration and calls for the 45th president’s impeachment and removal from office.
Of course, it is an uphill battle for Republicans to hang onto the House of Representatives. Historically, the party that holds the presidency generally loses seats in off-year elections. Based on current standings, Democrats would need to pick up 23 seats to take control of the 435-seat House. Since World War II, the party occupying the White House has on average lost 26 House seats in the midterm contests.
At the time of writing, the Real Clear Politics polling average for the so-called generic congressional ballot question gave Democrats an 8.2 percentage point lead over Republicans. Democrats weighed in at 47.6 percent versus 39.4 percent for Republicans. The Democrats’ high water mark during the Trump era so far was on Dec. 17, 2017, when Democrats polled 18 percentage points over Republicans, garnering 56 percent support, compared to Republicans’ 38 percent.
According to the statistics website FiveThirtyEight, “Democrats are favored to win a majority of seats if they win the popular vote by at least 5.5 points.” With Democrats seemingly on-track to exceed that 5.5-point threshold, FiveThirtyEight gives that party an 81.8 percent chance of wresting control of the House of Representatives from Republicans, who are given a mere 18.2 percent chance of maintaining control of the chamber.
Republicans maintaining control of the Senate seems a safer bet but by no means a sure thing. Republicans currently have 51 seats in the 100-seat chamber, compared to the Democrats’ 49 seats (which includes the independents Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine who caucus with the Democrats). Democrats are defending 26 Senate seats, compared to the nine Republicans are defending.
In the 2018 electoral cycle, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has outraised its counterpart, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.
At the time of writing, the RNC, which is the primary fundraising entity of the Republican Party, had raised $227.2 million, which is significantly more than the $117.3 million generated by the DNC. The RNC has $41.9 million in cash on hand, or five times the just over $8 million the DNC has in cash on hand. The RNC has zero debt, while the DNC is $6.7 million in debt.
Republicans are still ahead in the money race when the RNC and its affiliated committees are compared to the DNC and its affiliated committees, but the advantage is much less pronounced. Democrats have almost as much money in the bank as Republicans.
In the 2018 cycle, Republicans collectively have raised $670.7 million and spent $467.7 million. They have $149.3 million in cash on hand and are $1.6 million in debt.
In the same period, Democrats have generated $552.2 million and spent $442.8 million. They have $144.3 million in cash on hand and are $9.3 million in debt.
But narrowly focusing on the money fight between the RNC and DNC only reveals part of the story.
Democratic candidates are outraising Republican candidates by a significant margin, especially among individual donors, which may indicate greater intensity of popular support among the Democratic segment of the electorate.
The latest data indicate throughout the whole 2018 cycle so far, Democrats have raised $625.1 million for 1,502 House candidates (including candidates in the primaries; there are a total of 435 House seats) and have $304.3 million in cash on hand. Political action committees (PACs) were the source of $117.3 million, while $431.6 million came from individuals.
Republicans have raised $471.2 million for 1,207 candidates and have $280.9 million on hand. PACs donated $161.6 million, while individuals gave $230.3 million.
On the Senate side, Democrats have raised $368.6 million for 155 candidates and have $237.5 million on hand. PACs came up with $42 million and individuals gave $289.8 million.
Republicans have raised $258.4 million for 251 candidates and have $173.4 million on hand. PACs gave $37.4 million, while individuals donated $141.6 million.
Take out those candidates who are no longer in the running, and Democrats still have an advantage, especially in Senate races.
But first, on the House side, Democrats raised $445.6 million for 496 current candidates and have $272 million on hand. PACs donated $109 million, while individuals gave $294.2 million.
Republicans raised $373.6 million for 404 candidates and have $231 million on hand. PACs gave $145.9 million compared to individuals who donated $182.6 million.
On the Senate side, Democrats raised $305.4 million for 37 current candidates and have $181.6 million on hand. PACs donated $37.8 million while individuals gave $236.6 million.
Republicans raised $163.9 million for 42 candidates and have $68.1 million on hand. PACs donated $16.5 million while individuals gave $84.2 million.
Why is Republican fundraising going so badly?
Trump’s ongoing feud with libertarian billionaire donor Charles Koch may be straining GOP candidates’ treasuries.
Koch is a staunch advocate of free trade, while Trump is using tariffs to help negotiate new trade deals more favorable to the United States. Trump famously wants a wall on the southern border and to enforce immigration laws, while Koch supports open borders. These differences broke into an open quarrel this summer.
Koch and his brother, David, who is ailing and less active in politics, have been major financial backers of Republicans for the last decade and a half. But the Kochs barely register on the Center for Responsive Politics list of top Republican top donors in the 2018 cycle.
Charles Koch ranks 99th on the list of 100 individual donors, having donated $1 million to conservative or Republican causes.
On the list of top organizations making contributions, Koch Industries ranks 15th, having donated a total of $7.5 million–almost all of which went to Republicans—in the current electoral cycle. The figure includes any donations made by the company, its employees, and its PAC. It does not include any donations made to 501(c)(4) lobbying organizations, which are not required to disclose donations they receive.
Wealthy left-wing donors have given significant amounts to liberals and Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Energy entrepreneur Tom Steyer, who regularly calls for the impeachment of Trump, has donated $30.1 million, and radical philanthropist George Soros has given $12 million so far.