Bernie Sanders keeps setting fundraising records in the 2020 field, and smashing through them.
Sanders, the prominent progressive figure and senator from Vermont, has ridden a wave of small grassroots donations to consistently outraise his competitors throughout the 2020 campaign cycle. On Wednesday morning, his campaign announced they had raised over $34.5 million for the fourth quarter of last year, from 1.8 million individual donors — close to $10 million more than the $25.3 million he raised in the third quarter.
This end-of-year haul means Sanders has so far raised $96 million for the entire year, with 5 million individual donors. His campaign said the average donation was $18 and added that teachers were the most likely to give, as well as workers from Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, the US Postal Service, and Target.
We don’t yet know the fundraising numbers of all his competitors; but Sanders’s total is $10 million more than the already-impressive $24.7 million South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign raised in the fourth quarter. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign hasn’t yet released their numbers, but hinted at their best fundraising quarter yet, which could put them over the $21.5 million they raised this past spring.
And in fundraising appeals to supporters, progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has said she’s focused on hitting $20 million this quarter. Warren also hasn’t posted her fundraising numbers, but that goal would be less than the $24.6 million she raised in the third quarter. And businessman Andrew Yang raised $16.5 million in the fourth quarter, a significant increase over his third quarter numbers.
Though Sanders has struggled to rise above second in national polling, he’s consistently lead early fundraising in the Democratic field so far this cycle, and he could be on track to do so again as the 2020 primary begins in earnest. Billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg are also now the race, using their own money to help fund their campaigns. The two men have spent over $200 million on TV ads so far, according to CNN.
“Bernie Sanders is closing the year with the most donations of any candidate in history at this point in a presidential campaign,” Sanders’s campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement. “He is proving each and every day that working class Americans are ready and willing to fully fund a campaign that stands up for them and takes on the biggest corporations and the wealthy.”
Sanders has demonstrated the power of grassroots donations again
Though none of the Democratic candidates are taking corporate PAC money this year (a few have Super PACs), Sanders and Warren are the two candidates of the 2020 primary who have forsworn high dollar donations.
Sanders and Warren, the two progressives in the race, have made this a central message of their campaign. They tell supporters this shows they’re not beholden to special interests or big corporations, and that if elected, these moneyed entities will have no place in their administrations.
“One year into this campaign, you’ve never found me behind closed doors with corporate executives or spending hours on the phone sucking up to rich donors to fund my campaign,” Warren told supporters at a Tuesday speech in Boston.
Initially there were concerns this wouldn’t pay off; Warren’s initial fundraising numbers were lackluster, and her campaign finance director quit in the spring of 2019 because he disagreed with her approach.
But it’s been an incredibly successful fundraising model for both candidates. FEC rules cap individual campaign donations at $2,800 — so it’s been effective to have millions of donors cutting checks for small amounts throughout the campaign, rather than wealthy supporters maxing out their contributions early on.
Still, Thursday’s fundraising announcement from the Sanders campaign is especially poignant for the Vermont senator, who demonstrated the power of grassroots donations when he was an insurgent candidate challenging Hillary Clinton in 2016. As his hometown paper Seven Days noted; the $34.5 million raised this quarter is more than the $33 million Sanders had raised at this point in the 2016 primary race.
Bringing in such huge grassroots-powered hauls in 2016, especially doing so in a year when big donors for Hillary Clinton and Republican candidates were loading cash into super PACs, showed a modern presidential campaign could be powered by the people. It fed into Sanders rise in 2016 and helped ushered in a new progressive movement after he lost the primary.
Sanders is in another close race in 2020, but his fundraising numbers show he’s still generating enthusiasm from millions of supporters.