The fundraising reports are in for the first quarter of
2019. The big news was the $30 million raised by President Trump’s re-election
campaign, but the fundraising stats from the plethora of Democratic candidates could
shed some light on who donors consider to be a viable candidate. Fundraising
numbers also provide access to an important platform for Democrats. Only
candidates with at least 65,000 individual donors will qualify to participate
in the first Democratic primary debate in June
Candidate reports from the first quarter, which are
available on Open
Secrets, show that Bernie Sanders is the undisputed money leader in the
race so far. Sanders raised more than $18 million, not counting transfers from
previous campaigns. More than $15 million of Sanders’ take was from small donors,
reflecting his extensive grassroots network. This bodes well both for Bernie’s ability
to continue to raise money and his ability to tap into his donor network to
find volunteers to work his campaign.
Kamala Harris was in second place with a $12 million take, which
also excludes transfers. In contrast with Sanders, Harris received more than
half of her donations, $7.6 million, from large donors. Harris has shown a
better ability to raise money than to garner support, averaging about eight
percent in polling.
In third place was Beto O’Rourke with $9.3 million. As with
Bernie, Beto raised more money from small donors, but about 40 percent of his
donations also came from large donors. This shows a good mix of grassroots and
Pete Buttigieg was the surprising fourth-place finisher with
more than $7 million. Buttigieg, who averages about five
percent in polling, also performed well with both small and large donors.
A quartet of congressional figures make up the next four
finishers. The campaigns of Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and
Kirsten Gillibrand were boosted by transfers from prior campaign coffers but
none seem to have gained traction either in the polls or with donors. Warren is
the only candidate of the four to raise a significant amount ($4.2 million) from
small donors. The others don’t seem to have much grassroots support.
When it comes to cash on hand, Bernie Sanders is the leader
once again. The Sanders campaign has more than $15.6 million in the bank, which
is significantly more than Elizabeth Warren, who was in second place with $11.2
The next four on the list were boosted by transfers from previous
campaigns. John Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, has the
third-largest war chest with $10.5 million. Gillibrand, Harris, and Klobuchar
follow in order with accounts ranging from $10.1 to $6.9 million.
In the seventh and eighth positions are newcomers Beto O’Rourke
and Pete Buttigieg. O’Rourke held $6.8 million while Buttigieg had $6.4
million. Both of these candidates have strong fundraising numbers and will likely
see their bottom lines increase sharply in the coming months.
Rounding out the top-tier candidates is Cory Booker. The New
Jersey senator had just over $6.1 million in his bank account at the end of the
Obviously, the big winner in the fundraising race so far is
Bernie Sanders. His strong fundraising among small donors reflects a veritable
army of dedicated grassroots supporters that will present a formidable opponent
for the other Democratic hopefuls.
Other winners include Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg. The
newcomers both had surprisingly strong showings that will enable them to get
their names and messages out to primary voters. Fox
Business reported that average donation for the Buttigieg campaign was $36.35.
Simple math shows that this would almost certainly give the recently unknown
candidate a place in the first debate.
Kamala Harris was also a winner. As the second-place
fundraiser, her campaign is bringing in enough cash to keep going for the
foreseeable future despite a poor showing in the polls.
The big loser was Elizabeth Warren who had very
disappointing fundraising numbers. Her previous frontrunner status stands in
stark contrast to her current status as a has-been who has generated little interest.
Warren has a large war chest, however, so don’t look for her to drop out any
Everyone else was also a loser. The group of Washington
insiders, Klobuchar, Booker, and Gillibrand, also had disappointing results, in
terms of both polling and fundraising. Large war chests will enable these candidates
to stay in the race at least until the first debate.
The plethora of other candidates may not be so lucky. The
numerous small and unknown candidates may start dropping out soon. If they don’t
start to gain enough traction to get a seat at the debate, there will be little
reason for them to stay in the race.
The wild card is Joe Biden. Biden is not reflected in the
fundraising numbers despite leading in the polls because he does not have an
active campaign yet. If Biden is serious about running, he is working to
prepare potential donors to start giving as soon as he makes his announcement. The
former vice president and senator is an experienced politician with an
extensive network from his previous campaigns. He will hope to outraise the
$6.1 million raised by Beto and the $5.9 million garnered by Bernie in the
first 24 hours of their campaigns to affirm his status as the frontrunner.
Finally, Republicans should not feel too confident despite
Donald Trump’s $30
million haul. While this is more than any Democrat, it should be noted that
Democratic fundraising is splintered among a crowded field and many Democrat donors
may be waiting for Joe Biden to enter the race. Despite Trump’s impressive
number, it only takes two Democratic candidates, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala
Harris, to eclipse the president’s haul. It may not be long before Democratic
donors rally behind a presumed nominee and President Trump’s fundraising lead
begins to quickly erode.