This weekend marks one year until the 2016 elections, and after a year of stellar fundraising and recruiting, Democrats are in a strong position to take back the majority in 2016. While Senate Republicans have only months of gridlock, lackluster fundraising, and recruitment failures to show for their first few months in the majority, Democrats are putting forward strong campaigns in states across the map.
Senate Democrats Boast “Stellar” Candidate Recruitment…
Back in June, the Washington Post wrote on Senate Democrats’ “stellar” candidate recruitment, and the candidate class has only gotten stronger since. Democrats successfully recruited top-choice candidates in the top major competitive races – including Nevada, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and New Hampshire.
Following Governor Maggie Hassan’s entrance in to the New Hampshire Senate race in October, both Roll Calland MSNBC highlighted Democrats’ success in securing strong candidates in states across the map. Democrats are also working to expand the map into states like Arizona, Arkansas, and Missouri – races that Republicans now have to worry about with strong Democratic candidates challenging incumbents.
The Democratic class of Senate candidates has been hailed as the most diverse candidate class in history. In July, the Huffington Post reported that Senate Democrats had already recruited five major Democratic candidates of color, calling the recruiting effort “a significant boost in diversity to a group that has traditionally been overwhelmingly white.”
…While Senate Republicans Come Up Short.
Senate Republicans are facing an incumbent-heavy map this cycle, meaning there are just a few states where they had to recruit candidates – and they have come up short in each of these states. With both Marco Rubio and Dan Coats deciding against reelection bids, Republicans failed to clear primaries in both Florida and Indiana. In both states, the crowded and messy primary fields seem to grow by the week.
In Nevada, Republicans failed to recruit their top-choice candidate Governor Brian Sandoval. After Sandoval passed on the race, Rep. Joe Heck announced his bid and attention immediately turned to his support for privatizing Social Security and ending birthright citizenship. Now, Rep. Heck faces a potential primary challenge from his ideological twin, Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle.
It was a long, hot summer for the NRSC in Colorado. Months of drama and infighting within the state Republican Party dominated headlines, and five of the GOP’s top-tier candidates passed on the race as headlines blared that “Chaos in Colorado risks key Senate seat for GOP”. While Michael Bennet continues to run a strong campaign and post impressive fundraising numbers, Republicans still don’t have a serious candidate in one of their only serious pickup opportunities this cycle.
Democrats Dominate In Fundraising
Despite being in the minority, the DSCC has outraised the NRSC 7 out of 9 months this cycle and crushed the NRSC in first, second and third quarter fundraising. To date, the DSCC has outraised the NRSC by a total of $5.5 million.
Democratic candidates in states across the map have also seen a groundswell of support. In the third quarter, three Democratic challengers outraised vulnerable Republican incumbents – yet another indication of how much trouble the GOP is in with a bleak map and weak campaigns from incumbent Senators. Russ Feingold outraised Ron Johnson for the second straight quarter, this time by a whopping $1 million as Johnson continues to lag in polls. Rep. Tammy Duckworth outraised Mark Kirk by $410,000. In Arkansas, Conner Eldridge raised $403,000 in just three weeks, while incumbent Senator John Boozman raised just $359,000 during the entire third quarter.
In Florida, Patrick Murphy raised more than any other candidate in the race, ending the quarter with just under $3.5 million cash-on-hand – nearly more than the top three GOP candidates, combined. As Roll Call noted, “Both Lopez-Cantera’s and Jolly’s hauls would be strong for House candidates. But they are dangerously low numbers for an ultra-competitive statewide race…”
Even Democratic candidates who aren’t facing serious Republican challengers are showing impressive fundraising strength. Michael Bennet raised $1.6 million in the third quarter, ending with $5.4 million cash-on-hand, while Patty Murray raised $1.4 million in the third quarter and ended with $4.7 million cash-on-hand.
The Majority Isn’t Working
Republicans’ first months in the majority have been nothing short of disaster – the dysfunction has been so bad that it even retired a Senator from their own party. After Senate Republicans undermined national security and drove the country to the brink of a DHS shutdown, Indiana Senator Dan Coats announced that he would not seek reelection. Just three weeks earlier, Coats told Politico he was discouraged by the brinkmanship and that he’d only run for re-election if he “has some degree of confidence the new GOP Congress can get something done.”
In April, Huffington Post noted that the GOP “had a harder time than they anticipated proving they’re ready to govern” in their first 100 days in the majority. In May, the New York Times highlighted the Republican Senate’s failure to handle critical issues like national security – the same week that Mitch McConnell himself admitted that the chances of growing the GOP’s fragile majority were “pretty slim” in 2016.
After another shutdown threat, this time over funding for Planned Parenthood, Politico reported that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was well on his way to setting a record for “legislative futility.” Just days ago, Senator Marco Rubio underscored the amount of show votes the Republican Senate has taken, publicly saying that he misses votes because they’re “done for messaging purposes, but it’s never going to pass.”
The NRSC loves to claim that “The Majority Is Working,” but the Senate GOP’s first months in the majority have been plagued by gridlock, obstructionism and shutdown threats.
Republicans are facing a bleak map in 2016, and with recruitment failures and fundraising woes in key states – not to mention months of partisan gridlock – their chances of maintaining their fragile majority look slimmer by the day.