Nov 3, 2018

The biggest midterm contributions went to the closest races

Data: Federal Election Commission via OpenSecrets.org, Cook Political Report; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The tightest midterms races have attracted the most money, according to an Axios analysis of campaign finance filings.

The big picture: As the chart above shows, closer races have attracted the most donor money this election cycle. That's not too surprising, but even non-competitive races attracted a lot of money. In races where the outcome was assured, incumbent favorites crushed their opponents in fundraising.

By the time it's over, the 2018 midterms will have smashed the previous midterm spending record, with candidates spending a combined $5.2 billion, according to a projection by the Center for Responsive Politics. The previous record for midterm spending was about $4.2 billion in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

By the numbers: Texas Senate hopeful Beto O'Rourke, who's trying to unseat Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in one of the most closely watched races in the country, raised more money than any other midterm congressional candidate.

  • O'Rourke raked in $69 million as of his Oct. 17 report to the Federal Election Commission.
  • Though Cruz's fundraising trailed, he still ranked third in fundraising among all congressional candidates, hauling in $40 million.

The Cruz-O'Rourke contest exemplifies the trend, but they were not alone: six of the top 10 fundraisers were in races rated a "toss-up" by Cook Political Report.

  • Florida Senate contenders Rick Scott and Bill Nelson were the second and eighth most successful fundraisers.
  • Claire McCaskill and Bob Hugin, competing in toss-up races in Missouri and New Jersey, also made the top 10.

Yet candidates didn't need to be in close races to raise millions.

  • Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren took in more than $34 million as of Oct. 17, even though Cook Political Report rates her seat as Solid D and her two opponents combined raised under $8 million.
  • On the Republican side, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, virtually a sure bet to re-win his House seat, raised $9.5 million while his top opponent raised just over $200,000.

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