BY MIKE DENNISON
(KPAX) Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, running for a second term in 2020, continues to leave his potential opponents in the fundraising dust, reporting Tuesday that he raised $1.2 million in the past three months.
His third-quarter take gives him $5.26 million in total funds raised for the campaign and almost $4.2 million in the bank – more than 80 times the money held by his nearest potential Democratic competitors.
The two Democratic candidates who filed reports Tuesday – Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins and Loma rancher John Mues – each ended the period with about $50,000 in their campaign accounts.
Democrat Cora Neumann of Bozeman didn’t file a report, because she declared her candidacy the day after the fundraising period ended on Sept. 30.
Montana State University political scientist David Parker told MTN News Tuesday that while many things could happen between now and election day, “I don’t see any good evidence (now) that this race is going to be terribly competitive.”
Parker said Daines, as a Republican incumbent in a conservative-leaning state, would be tough to beat under any circumstances – and especially tough when he’s without a well-known, tested opponent.
“There are many other races on the radar that are probably a higher priority for Democrats,” he said. “It also tells me that … there’s not a lot of excitement for the Democratic candidates that have announced.”
He said it appears Democratic donors are more excited about the U.S. House race, and are directing their money toward the leading Democratic candidate there, Kathleen Williams, rather than the Democrats in the Senate race.
Collins said he raised $84,000 during the third quarter, pushing his yearly total to almost $176,000, and that he finished the period with just under $49,000 in the bank.
“The outpouring of support for this campaign has been nothing short of spectacular and frankly, I’m humbled by it,” Collins said in a statement. “I want to thank every single one of the people that have donated; we’ve received over 4,000 donations.”
Mues, a political newcomer who got into the race in early July, reported raising about $101,000 – including $18,400 in personal loans to the campaign. He had $51,000 in his campaign account as of Sept. 30, but also had $54,000 in debts.
Daines, however, is clearly the fundraising powerhouse in this race.
In the past three months, the Daines campaign collected $739,000 from individuals and another $371,000 from political-action committees, or PACs. Daines continues to get a substantial amount of money from PACs – about 36 percent overall – that primarily represent business interests. He also had $81,000 in transfers, which is usually a mix of individual and PAC donations.
This year alone, Daines has raised $3.8 million in campaign funds. However, he trails the pace of his Democratic Montana counterpart, Jon Tester, who raised $6.7 million in 2017, the year before his re-election effort.
Tester, however, was one of the top targeted Democrats in the country in 2018 and was expecting – and had – a prominent opponent. Tester defeated state Auditor Matt Rosendale by 50 percent to 47 percent in the state’s most expensive U.S. Senate race in history.
Rosendale is running for the U.S. House in 2020 and is the fundraising leader among Republicans so far in that race.