Money Floods the Race for Control of Congress, More Than a Year Early

Money Floods the Race for Control of Congress, More Than a Year Early

The main House war chests for both Democrats and Republicans have a combined $128 million in the bank — more than double the sum at this point in 2020.


A dizzying amount of money is already pouring into the battles for the House and the Senate more than a year before the 2022 elections, as Republicans are bullish on their chances to take over both chambers in the first midterm election under President Biden, given the narrow margins keeping Democrats in power.

The two parties’ main war chests for the House total a combined $128 million — more than double the sum at this point in the 2020 cycle and far surpassing every other previous one. Top House members are now raising $1 million or more per quarter. And more than two dozen senators and Senate candidates topped that threshold.

Candidate after candidate, and the parties themselves, are posting record-breaking sums, even as the shapes of most House districts nationwide remain in flux because of delays in the once-a-decade redrawing of boundaries.

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In Georgia, Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, raised more than $100,000 per day in the last three months for a $9.5 million haul. But his leading Republican rival, Herschel Walker, the former football player who was urged to run by former President Donald J. Trump, raised $3.7 million in a little more than a month, setting up a potentially bruising and expensive contest in that key state.

Politicians in both parties are furiously racing to expand their online donor bases while simultaneously courting big checks from wealthy benefactors. At a Senate Republican retreat for big donors in Palm Beach, Fla., this week, Mr. Trump’s presence was a reminder of his continued perch at the center of the Republican Party — both in helping lure donations and in derailing whatever messaging party operatives have designed.

“The donor community is waking up to the fact that the Republican Party has a historic opportunity in 2022, in spite of Trump continuing to talk about 2020,” said Scott Reed, a longtime Republican strategist.

Money alone is rarely decisive in political races, especially when both parties are flush with cash. But the glut of political funding, detailed in Federal Election Commission reports filed on Friday by House and Senate candidates and announced by the parties, shows the growing stakes of American elections, where a single flipped Senate seat can shift trillions of dollars in federal spending.

The country’s increasingly polarized electorate has been hyper-engaged in politics since the Trump era began, and the ease of channeling that energy into donations online is remaking how campaigns are funded. The online donation clearinghouses for the two parties, ActBlue and WinRed, processed a combined total of more than $450 million in the third quarter.

The avalanche of cash could expand the 2022 political battlefield and result in an unrelenting wave of advertising aimed at Americans who live in swing districts and states.

The ad wars have, in fact, already begun. Democratic- and Republican-linked groups are spending millions of dollars to shape public opinion on the spending package currently being debated in Congress.

Among them is one Biden-aligned nonprofit group, Building Back Together, which said it had spent nearly $15 million on television ads in more than two dozen House districts and key states since July. This week, a Republican-aligned nonprofit group, One Nation, announced that it was beginning a $10 million ad campaign, urging three Democratic senators up for re-election in 2022 — in Nevada, Arizona and New Hampshire — to oppose the spending package.

All told, more than $70 million has been spent since Sept. 1 on television ads related to the Biden legislative agenda, according to AdImpact, a media-tracking firm.

Historically, the party out of power has done well in a new president’s first midterm election, and Republicans see rising inflation, missteps in Afghanistan and a softening in Mr. Biden’s approval rating as reasons for a sunny 2022 outlook.

“We’ll have to really screw up to lose the House,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, referring to the Democrats’ narrow majority in that chamber. He said that recapturing the Senate, which is split evenly between 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, would depend on recruiting more top-tier Republicans, such as Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire.

At the donor retreat in Florida, Mr. Graham said, “there was a sense of optimism that was as high as I’ve seen it.”