As the general election in November approaches, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has proven surprisingly vulnerable as one of the Republicans up for re-election this year. Although polling in the race has been sparse, one recent survey had him tied with likely Democratic challenger Amy McGrath — who, as the Center for Responsive Politics outlines, has been vastly outraising McConnell. She raised more money overall during the early part of 2020 and from small dollar donors in particular, suggesting a vast enthusiasm for taking on McConnell and the rest of the Senate Republicans.
McGrath raised $12.8 million in the first quarter of 2020, and through the end of 2019, a full 63 percent of her donations came from small dollar donors. Both of those figures are far ahead of McConnell, who raised only $7.8 million in the first quarter of 2020 and could count small dollar donors as only 16 percent of his donations through the end of 2019. Most of McConnell’s money has been coming from big money sources. Still, McGrath has now raised more money than McConnell in the race overall, too — she has brought in $30 million compared to $25.6 million on the McConnell side.
Raymond La Raja, a political science professor at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, told the Center for Responsive Politics:
‘It’s a high profile race, McConnell is the second most powerful Republican and Democrats intensely dislike him. It is a national race that attracts small donors… If it was a choice of Democratic establishment, they would not be investing this much in the race. But this really is being funded through grassroots… people see this race as a tight one, which is why they’re giving money.’
That grassroots support has been coming from outside the state of Kentucky at a sharp rate. Out-of-state donations totaled a full 96 percent of McGrath’s money by the end of 2019. For comparison, out-of-state donations comprised a full 89 percent of the money that McConnell had brought in by the same point.
McConnell’s race is currently rated as “likely Republican” by the Cook Political Report — which, it’s worth noting, is definitely not as strongly red as it could be. The races for a full dozen currently GOP-held seats are rated as “strong Republican” by the same outlet.
Democrats need at least three additional seats tacked onto their current total to nab the majority in the chamber — if the vice president, who breaks ties in Senate votes, remains a Republican, they’d need four. The Cook Political Report currently rates the races for a full four currently GOP-held seats as toss-ups, including races in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina. Four others are just “leaning” Republican, including races in Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana. In other words, there are a lot of opportunities for Democratic gains — especially with continued strong fundraising.
In the first quarter of 2020, Democrats outraised Republican incumbents in every single one of the four races currently rated as toss-ups. In some, Democratic chances already look quite solid — in polls, Democrat Mark Kelly currently leads incumbent Republican Martha McSally in the Arizona Senate race by an average of eight percent.