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Vast Majority of Republican Incumbents Are Facing Challengers

Challengers are generally vastly underfunded.

Earlier this summer, OpenSecrets Blog reported that members of the 115th Congress are facing more — and better — challengers at this early point in the election cycle. Third quarter campaign filings indicate that this trend is continuing. So far, 267 members of Congress face challengers. While this is still fewer than the 441 members of Congress seeking re-election, it represents an uptick from the number of challengers by this point in 2013 (148) or even 2009 (208).

See the data here.

Of those 267 members, Republican incumbents are far more likely to be facing early challengers. 72% of Republican incumbents already have a challenger lined up, while only 41% of Democrats have challengers. However, those Democrats who have early challengers are more likely than Republicans to be facing a member of their own party. 39% of the Democrats with challengers have primary challenges, while only 23% of Republicans do.

Democratic challengers have also, on average, raised more money than have Republican challengers. The average Democratic challenger in a House race has raised $127,000, which is more than twice as much as the $62,000 raised by the average House Republican challenger.

Challengers are generally vastly underfunded compared to incumbents, and this year’s group, while larger in number, is no exception. The average House challenger has raised approximately $111,000 — but the typical House incumbent has raised $655,000 if they have an incumbent. However, there are some exceptions. 14 incumbents (12 Republicans and 2 Democrats) have raised less money than at least one of their challengers. 42 incumbents have raised less from individual donors than at least one of their opponents (6 Democrats, 36 Republicans), and a whopping 99 incumbents (13 Democrats, 86 Republicans) — 37% of incumbents who have challengers — are being outraised by their opponent in small donations, or donations of less than $200.

A better funded challenger may have a higher likelihood of taking down an established incumbent, but so far Cook Political has only identified 81 House races as “competitive,” rather than safely Republican or Democratic. Of those 81 races, 6 have incumbents who are being outraised by their challenger (all are Republicans being outraised by a Democratic challenger) so far in 2017. 20 races see Republican incumbents facing challengers who have outraised them with individual donors, and 32 incumbents in competitive races are facing challengers who have outraised them with small donors. Senate incumbents, nearly without exception, are faring better than their challengers — but Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) are being outraised by challengers with small donors. Only Manchin is seen as vulnerable. Note that Cook only analyzes whether the seat will change parties, not whether the incumbent could lose to a primary opponent.

See the data here.

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