Candidates with bragging rights are releasing their second-quarter fundraising hauls, and Democrats appear poised to ride another cycle of strong grassroots energy as they have in every cycle since 2016, when Donald Trump took over the Republican Party.
At the same time, Trump is sucking up all the grassroots dollars on the Republican side, posting an eye-popping intake of more than $35 million with an average donation of roughly $34.
The DeSantis campaign had yet to release its second-quarter fundraising at the time of this writing. By way of comparison, however, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis touted his $8.2 million haul within the first 24 hours after officially announcing his candidacy in late May. But that number was fueled by average donations of more than $200 a pop—exactly the type of high-dollar donations where, at least anecdotally, DeSantis has taken a hit as he slides in polling.
Trump’s muscular second-quarter draw along with that of one of his favorite political enemies, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, foretold different narratives about the upcoming cycle. The Schiff campaign posted a whopping $8.1 million haul—the most ever raised by a Democratic Senate candidate in the second quarter of an off-year. Schiff's take edged out the $7.2 million raised by Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia in the second quarter of 2021 as he girded for a high-stakes reelection campaign.
Ironically, Schiff has something in common with Trump. (No, he hasn't been criminally indicted.) Last month, Schiff became the target of a House GOP investigation that his supporters consider a meritless political witch hunt. Indeed, House Republicans censured Schiff over his leadership role in investigating Trump.
Objectively speaking, Schiff was unfairly targeted while Trump is being held to account for a pattern of demonstrating a reckless disregard for the law. But rightly or wrongly, both Trump and Schiff appear to have benefited greatly from the perception that they were treated unfairly.
Unlike Trump, however, Schiff wasn't a singular success story on the Democratic side:
Rep. Colin Allred of Texas, who's trying to unseat GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, raised $6.2 million.
Sen. Jon Tester of Montana announced a $5 million haul, putting him at $10 million on the year and more than half what he raised total in 2018 ($18 million).
Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania took in $4 million for his reelection bid in his strongest fundraising quarter ever.
Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin announced a $3.2 million haul, nearly $1 million more than she raised at this juncture of her 2018 reelection campaign.
The major takeaway from these early numbers is that Democratic candidates are already leveraging grassroots power to gain an early edge over their challengers. It's a dynamic that proved especially fruitful last cycle for Senate Democrats as Republican candidates and campaign committees strained to keep up with the buying power of Democratic candidates. Senate Democrats will desperately need that fundraising edge as they attempt to survive a brutal map next year.
On the Republican side, however, Trump is absolutely dominating Republicans' small-dollar donor pool while many high-dollar donors keep their powder dry as they try to figure out which way is up heading into 2024. None of that is good news for any Republican not named Trump.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Ron DeSantis raised $8.2 million in the first quarter of 2023. That was incorrect—he raised $8.2 million in the first 24 hours of his official presidential bid.