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Rick Scott decisively leads Bill Nelson in gubernatorial fundraising

July 16, 2018

Gov. Rick Scott of Florida showed the ability to raise and spend oodles of money during his successful gubernatorial campaigns and he has flipped on the financial switch again in his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

While the power of incumbency often helps sitting senators outraise their challengers, things were reversed over the last three months in Florida, where Mr. Scott decisively bested Mr. Nelson, by a $10.7 million to $4.4 million margin.

“Democrats knew that Rick Scott was going to have a ton of money in his race, and that has proven to be the case,” said Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “It is why they have long feared his candidacy. Nelson’s haul is good by most reasonable standards, but Scott’s resources go far beyond a typical standard for a Senate challenger.”

Another notable outlier in second quarter contributions was in Texas, where Republican Sen. Ted Cruz’s Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, raised twice as much money as the incumbent, pulling in $10.4 million.

Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada also trailed Rep. Jacky Rosen in second-quarter campaign contributions in Nevada though the GOP incumbent maintained a cash on hand advantage of roughly $2 million.

“The trends so far generally reinforce what we’ve seen in past quarters: Democratic incumbents are by and large doing well on the fundraising front,” Mr. Kondik said.

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri raised $4.3 million, more than doubling Republican Josh Hawley’s haul and leaving her with $9 million more than Mr. Hawley, the state attorney general, in the bank.

Democratic incumbent Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana each has $5 million more than his rival Republicans Patrick Morrisey, the state attorney general, and businessman Mike Braun after each Democrat raised $1.5 million and $1.9 million, respectively.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota raised $1.9 million and had $5.2 million in the bank, while her challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer took in $1.5 million and had $2.4 million in the bank.

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana was left with $6.1 million in the bank after reporting $3 million raised. State Auditor Matt Rosendale, the Republican nominee, raised $1 million.

Republicans hold a slim 51-49 seat majority in the Senate and the electoral map is working in their favor. Democrats are defending 25 Senate seats, including 10 in states that Mr. Trump carried in the 2016 election, several of them easily.

Republicans are defending eight seats, and the seat in Nevada is the only contest in a state that Hillary Clinton won two years ago.

Money isn’t everything, but it does matter in particular for Democrats who are running in states where Mr. Trump remains popular and are going to be targeted by outside super PACs and political nonprofits that are expected to invest heavily to expand the GOP majority.

The bullseye on their backs got bigger after Mr. Trump nominated Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court setting the stage for a confirmation vote that could come near the election.

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