Espy breaks single-day fundraising record as Democrats appear galvanized by RBG’s death

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America

Mike Espy speaks to Millsaps College students during a town hall on November 15, 2018.

Galvanized by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the U.S. Senate’s role in replacing her, Democratic donors are giving in droves to Mike Espy, the Democrat challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in November.

Espy has raised nearly $200,000 since Ginsburg’s passing was announced on Friday evening, according to Espy campaign sources. That total — a single-day fundraising record for Espy this cycle — is close to one-third of what he raised from April to June.

While a fundraising advantage doesn’t translate to votes, an influx of cash 45 days from Election Day could loom large for Espy, who has acknowledged his need to reach more Mississippi voters during the COVID-19 pandemic and has largely been ignored by national Democrats.

“We know that the GOP Senate majority is very vulnerable,” Espy wrote in a Saturday morning fundraising email. “Mitch McConnell himself admitted he has a ’50-50′ chance. That’s why he announced his plans to ram through another Supreme Court Justice less than two hours after we learned our hero, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, had passed away.”

Hyde-Smith, meanwhile, has struggled raising cash this cycle. Among incumbent senators, Hyde-Smith has raised less than 96 incumbent senators, including Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, who doesn’t face another election until 2024. The three Senate incumbents who raised less than Hyde-Smith have announced they will not seek re-election.

Ginsburg’s death — and the debate over whether the Senate should confirm a President Donald Trump nomination to replace her before Election Day or before the new Senate is sworn in on Jan. 3, 2021 — brings into focus the importance of the U.S. Senate races this fall. Because senators must confirm a presidential nominee to the Supreme Court, Democrats across the nation are giving in record amounts to Democratic Senate campaigns.

ActBlue, a donation-processing site that helps Democratic candidates, committees and organizations raise money, reported nearly $57 million raised between the time Ginsburg’s death was announced and mid-afternoon on Saturday, crushing single-day records.

Many pundits believe the U.S. Senate, controlled by Republicans since 2016, could flip to Democratic control after the Nov. 3 election. And Trump, trailing in polls in key electoral college states, appears to be the underdog against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Republican leaders appear eager to use possibly their last few weeks in power to flip control of the Supreme Court. Ginsburg, only the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, became a political and cultural icon to the left, wielding an ardent defense of equal rights. Republicans being in position to fill her seat means that conservative-leaning justices could control the nation’s highest court, and Democrats fear key Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade could be overturned.

Since Ginsburg’s death, Democrats have argued that a nomination to replace her on the court should wait until after a new president and new Senate are elected. Many Republicans, including Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have said that the current president and Senate should vote on a Trump nomination before the new Senate is sworn in.

“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices,” Trump wrote Saturday morning on Twitter. “We have this obligation, without delay!”

If four Republican senators and every Democratic senator choose not to confirm a Trump nominee to the court, the nomination would be blocked. By Saturday afternoon, at least one Republican senator, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, said the president elected on Nov. 3 should get to nominate the next justice and that the Senate should not vote before then.

Neither Hyde-Smith nor Wicker responded to questions from Mississippi Today about whether they believe a Trump nominee should be confirmed by the Senate before new leaders take office. Espy has also not publicly commented on the matter.