- Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images
- Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat challenging Sen. Ted Cruz, raised more money in the third quarter of this year than any Senate candidate ever has.
- Drawing $38.1 million from over 800,000 donors, O’Rourke raised more than three times what Cruz did, despite the incumbent’s lead in the polls.
- But many warn that even staggering sums of campaign cash might not be enough to turn a deeply red state blue in the 2018 midterms.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat challenging Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, raised more money in the third quarter of this year than any Senate candidate ever has, his campaign announced Friday.
Drawing $38.1 million from over 800,000 donors, O’Rourke raised more than three times what Cruz did, despite the incumbent’s lead in the polls. But Cruz’s $12 million in donations this past quarter is still a sizable haul for a Senate race.
While O’Rourke has outraised Cruz all year, his latest numbers shocked politicos and Democratic operatives. Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, noted that the candidate raised $3 million more in the last three months than her organization budgeted for the entire 2018 election cycle.
“And we more than doubled our budget from the 2016 cycle for 2018,” she tweeted.
Others pointed out that O’Rourke’s haul topped the $23.5 million that then-Sen. Barack Obama raised in the quarter leading up to the 2008 Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries – and it also exceeded the amount former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush raised for his entire 2016 presidential bid.
Some Democrats argue that while O’Rourke has run a more promising campaign than any Democrat has in the red state in decades, his campaign donations would be better used elsewhere. Still others pointed out that money, even vast sums, does not necessarily translate to wins – a prime example being Democrat Jon Ossoff’s failed 2017 special election bid for a Georgia House seat, which was the most expensive House race ever.
“Imagine what that $38 million could do in races where Dems aren’t going to lose by 8 points,” tweeted former Democratic staffer Caitlin Legacki, referring to recent polls that show Cruz leading by anywhere between five and nine points.
Unlike Cruz, O’Rourke has banned donations from corporate political action committees, making the size of his campaign war chest that much more impressive.
“The people of Texas in all 254 counties are proving that when we reject PACs and come together not as Republicans or Democrats but as Texans and Americans, there’s no stopping us,” the El Paso Democrat said in a statement. “This is a historic campaign of people: all people, all the time, everywhere, every single day – that’s how we’re going to win this election and do something incredible for Texas and our country at this critical moment.”
You just raised a record-breaking $38.1 million in three months. From 802,836 contributions. No PACs, no special interests, no corporations. All people, all the time, everywhere, every single day. pic.twitter.com/IDMFNFwezB
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) October 12, 2018
The last Senate candidates to come anywhere close to O’Rourke’s fundraising numbers were former Rep. Rick Lazio, a New York Republican who raised $22 million in single quarter in his 2000 Senate race against Hillary Clinton, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who raised $12.1 million in a quarter in 2012.
But even if O’Rourke loses, the seemingly unprecedented enthusiasm behind his bid makes it unlikely that Texas – or the country – has seen the last of him.
“If this Senate race doesn’t work out, there’s one in #2020 that might be of interest…,” tweeted NPR politics editor Domenico Montenaro.