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Expand chart
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.

Go deeper

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.

1 hour ago - World

U.S. fears Iran won’t scale back to 2015 nuclear deal

Officials gather in Vienna on Sept. 29 for the first day of renewed nuclear talks with Iran. Photo: EU Vienna Delegation/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

U.S. officials have extremely low expectations as world powers resume negotiations with Iran to curb its nuclear program, believing the Iranians aren't yet ready to negotiate seriously, Axios is told.

Driving the news: Senior officials in the U.S. intelligence community have assessed the new Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, thinks of his predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, as a weak accommodationist who negotiated a bad deal with the U.S. and other world powers in 2015.