Sen. Lindsey Graham fared nearly as well on Tuesday against a Democratic challenger who spent more than $100 million in the 2020 cycle as he did against his opponent in 2014, who raised a paltry $525,000 for that campaign.
Graham’s stronger-than-expected showing highlights one of the most startling patterns to emerge from the election: Historic campaign contributions to Democrats against incumbent Senate Republicans did not pay off.
In four hotly contested races, the Democratic candidates raised $125 million more ($288 million versus $163 million) than Republican incumbents.
But according to results compiled by The Associated Press, the Republicans in those races won by almost the same margins as they did in 2014.
The strong Republican showing is likely to help the GOP retain control of the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fared better on Tuesday against Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in his Kentucky race than he did against his opponent in 2014, Alison Lundergan Grimes.
McConnell won a seventh term by over 20 percentage points.
McGrath raised $88 million for her race, the second most of any Senate candidate. McConnell raised $50 million.
McConnell defeated Grimes in 2014 by 15.5 percentage points, outraising her by a $31 million to $19 million margin.
Sen. Joni Ernst and Thom Tillis, the Republican incumbents in Iowa and North Carolina, respectively, also fared as well on Tuesday as they did in 2014, despite facing heavy fundraising deficits.
Ernst was declared the victor over Theresa Greenfield by a 6.4 percent margin. Greenfield raised $47 million, a record for an Iowa Senate race, while Ernst raised $23 million.
Ernst won in 2014 by an 8.3 percent margin. She and her opponent raised $12 million each in that race.
Tillis’ race against Democrat Cal Cunningham has not been called, but the Republican is currently leading by the same margin by which he won in 2014.
He is ahead by 1.8 points despite being outspent $21 million to $46 million. Tillis won by 1.5 points in 2014 and was outspent $11 million to $25 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Jaime Harrison’s resounding loss to Graham is likely to cause the most soul-searching for Democrats.
Democrats had high hopes for Harrison, a former DNC official who previously served as chairman of the Democratic Party in South Carolina.
Polls had Harrison running neck-and-neck with Graham, who has become a prominent target because of his close alliance with President Donald Trump and his role in confirming Trump-appointed judges Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Vox, a liberal political website, declared South Carolina an unexpected Senate battleground state in an Oct. 22 article.
The Guardian posited that Harrison might pull off the upset of 2020.
The New York Times marveled at Harrison’s “astonishing” $57 million cash haul in the most recent fundraising quarter.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Harrison raised $107 million to Graham’s $69 million during the entire 2020 cycle.
Harrison raised over $100 million more than Graham’s challenger in 2014, Brad Hutto.
Graham won by 16.5 points in 2014 and 11.3 points in 2020.
Republicans also held ground in Kansas on Tuesday despite historic contributions to Democrat Barbara Bollier’s campaign.
Rep. Roger Marshall defeated Bollier by 22.6 points to win the Senate seat, according to The Associated Press. Bollier, a state senator, outraised Marshall by a margin of $24 million to $6 million.
Marshall will replace outgoing Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
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