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Data: FEC; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The battle for control of the U.S. Senate has triggered unprecedented fundraising at the congressional level, with one Democratic candidate out-raising Al Gore in his presidential race just 20 years ago.

By the numbers: The top 10 Senate fundraisers in 2020 brought in more than double the money raised by the top 10 campaigns in 2018, raking in over $1 billion collectively, according to data filed with the Federal Election Commission by Dec. 24.

In Georgia, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, and Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, have collectively raised $446.7 million this election cycle.

  • That exceeds the 2018 total brought in by the top nine Senate candidates.
  • Ossoff and Warnock smashed fundraising records in the last reporting period, each receiving over $100 million in two months. The $140 million total raised by Ossoff this cycle exceeds Gore's tally from 2000.
  • This year's fundraising has been propelled by the closeness of the results on Election Day in November. If Democrats can win both runoffs Tuesday, they can gain a 50-50 split in the Senate and a future Vice President Kamala Harris will cast tie-breaking votes in their favor.

The big picture: In the 2000 presidential race, Gore raised $133 million himself; adjusted for inflation, that would equal $201 million today.

  • The overall total raised by Gore and George W. Bush would equate to $494 million in today's dollars, or less than half of the 2020 Senate totals.

The bottom line: While money matters, especially in races as close as the Georgia runoffs, remember that Jaime Harrison, Amy McGrath and Sara Gideon were some of 2020's biggest fundraisers.

  • The three Democrats soundly lost in their bids to unseat Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell and Susan Collins, respectively.

Go deeper

McConnell defends filibuster: "You don’t destroy the Senate for fleeting advantage"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday condemned Democratic support for abolishing the legislative filibuster, arguing that it would create a "scorched-earth Senate."

Why it matters: Many Democrats are pushing to use their newfound majority to eliminate the 60-vote threshold needed for major legislation, which would make it easier to pass progressive priorities. Resistance from Republicans and moderate Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (W.V.) has made that unlikely.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

First look: The LCV's $4M ad buy

A screenshot from a new League of Conservation Voters ad supporting Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

The League of Conservation Voters and Climate Power are aiming another $4 million worth of ads at centrist House Democrats, urging them to support the climate provisions in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Progressive groups are trying to counter the onslaught of conservative money pouring into swing districts. Both sides are trying to define Biden’s Build Back Better Agenda and pressure lawmakers to support — or oppose — the legislation scheduled for a vote in the House this week.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Shutdown Plan B

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Senate will hold a futile vote Monday night — just 72 hours before a potential shutdown — on a House-passed bill to fund the government through Dec. 3 and raise the debt limit.

Why it matters: The bill is going to fail. Period. But then comes Plan B: A "clean" continuing resolution — stripped of language about raising the debt limit — that Democrats spent the past week preparing, Axios is told.