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For Senate Democrats, campaign money couldn't buy happiness

By Reuters | November 8th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

South Carolina Democrat Jaime Harrison shattered US Senate campaign fundraising records this year. He amassed a stunning $109 million (Sh11.9 billion) war chest for an election drive intended to unseat three-term Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

That financial firepower failed to deliver when Harrison, like Senate Democratic hopefuls in five other states, met a surge of voter support for Republicans.

For Harrison, 44, it meant a loss by more than 10 percentage points after largely running neck and neck with Graham in pre-election polls. Other Democrats lost in Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana and Texas.

"We just got completely slaughtered on Election Day. There truly was a red surge," said a Democratic operative who worked closely with the Harrison campaign.

Democrats who had hoped to easily oust the 53-47 Republican Senate majority have instead won a net gain of only one seat so far. They could reach a majority, if they win two Georgia Senate seat runoffs on January 5.

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Such a result would give them a 50-50 split, if Democrat Joe Biden is declared president and Kamala Harris vice president, allowing her to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Senate Democrats are already calling on supporters to send campaign contributions to Georgia candidate Raphael Warnock.

Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue face challenges from Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively. The four candidates have already raised a combined $100 million (Sh10.9 billion) in campaign donations, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings.

But money did not prove decisive for Democrats in other hotly contested Senate races, despite a combined Democratic fundraising advantage over $200 million (Sh21.8 billion).

Democratic candidates raised a whopping $626 million (Sh68.6 billion) in 14 highly competitive races, vastly overshadowing Republican collections of $386 million (Sh42.1 billion) in the same contests, according to FEC filings.

Aside from the surge of Republican voters, strategists and political analysts suspect Democratic spending may have reached the point of diminishing return, while aiding Republican claims that some races were being distorted by outside money.

A Republican strategist involved in several key races said the scale and out-of-state nature of Democratic fundraising through the ActBlue platform also helped Republicans drive home claims that Democratic candidates were in league with national political figures, namely Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

In South Carolina, Harrison and Graham raised nearly $180 million (Sh19.6 billion) between them. The biggest winner in Tuesday's Senate election was Maine Republican Susan Collins, 67, an independent-minded moderate who co-authored a federal programme to aid small businesses reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. She won despite Biden capturing the state from President Donald Trump.

Collins raised $24.2 million (Sh2.6 billion) for an election that many had expected her to lose against Democrat Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. Gideon raised nearly $70 million (Sh7.6 billion) but lost by almost 9 points.

"The decisive victory for Senator Collins proved that the state of Maine is not for sale," said Collins campaign spokeswoman Annie Clark.

Republicans also claim Democrats may have become too fixated on trying to oust prominent Republicans such as McConnell and Graham in red states that were unlikely to flip blue.

Republicans Democrats US 2020 Elections
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