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While Trump rakes in cash, some Senate Republicans lagging

Brian Slodysko
Associated Press

Washington – President Donald Trump is raising record amounts of cash for his 2020 reelection. But that fundraising might isn’t spilling over to the most vulnerable Republicans fighting to hold onto their seats in a narrowly divided Senate.

During the third quarter, former astronaut Mark Kelly took in $2.5 million more than Republican Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona. In Maine, state House Speaker Sara Gideon bested longtime Republican Sen. Susan Collins by over $1 million. And in Colorado, Cory Gardner, who led Senate Republicans’ campaign arm in 2018, barely outraised former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who had been in the race just five weeks before the quarter ended.

President Donald Trump addresses a campaign rally Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Minneapolis.

The trouble for Republicans extends to states where they’re supposed to be on firmer ground. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst didn’t crack $1 million and was outraised by the leading Democrat. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis narrowly outraised Democrat Cal Cunningham but is also facing a primary challenge from the right that has forced him to spend millions in early TV and radio ads.

The lagging numbers suggest that much of the enthusiasm among the GOP base is focused on Trump and doesn’t necessarily translate to Republicans running for other offices. Democrats, meanwhile, are paying close attention to races across the board, including the House, Senate and presidency, fueling them with small-dollar donations that Republicans have struggled to counter.

Fundraising prowess isn’t always an indicator of who will actually win on Election Day. But the dynamic could complicate the GOP’s effort to maintain their 53-47 grip on the Senate.

This should serve as a “real wakeup call,” said Scott Reed, a senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a group that has long been allied with Senate Republicans. The “ongoing Trump drama” over impeachment and other issues “drowns out all the political news back home every single night,” making it difficult for GOP candidates to get their message out, Reed said.

But the challenges facing Republicans have mounted in recent weeks as the Democratic-controlled House pursues an impeachment inquiry. Instead of focusing on their own records, Republicans seeking reelection have often been barraged with uncomfortable questions about Trump’s conduct. The pressure will only grow if the Senate holds an impeachment trial, forcing these Republicans to decide whether Trump should be removed from office.

“Republicans are going to struggle with fundraising and messaging if the only thing they can talk about is President Trump,” said Jonathan Kott, who was a senior adviser to Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, during his successful 2018 reelection bid.