There was never any doubt that Bernie Sanders had the policy chops to mount a national campaign. And the huge, enthusiastic crowds he has been drawing and his solid standing in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire all suggest he is a formidable candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
However, one of the raps on the socialist Democratic senator from Vermont was that he couldn’t raise the kind of money needed to sustain a long, bruising battle with front-runner Hillary Clinton for their party’s nomination.
In another surprising achievement, the campaign raked in $26 million of contributions during the third quarter of 2015, nearly matching the $28 million that Clinton’s campaign announced on Wednesday.
The former Secretary of State once was viewed as a political juggernaut who could blow away any challenger with a sophisticated national campaign organization fueled by almost unlimited contributions. But it’s not working out that way.
While Clinton’s campaign organization and related super PACs hauled in millions of dollars from wealthy donors through nearly 60 fundraisers headlined by Clinton between July 1 and September 30, Sanders has largely shunned fundraising events, doing only seven events during the past three months. Instead, he has skillfully mined the Internet for hundreds of thousands of small contributions.
Indeed, Sanders has received 1.3 million donations from about 650,000 different donors, according to The Washington Post. That performance put him ahead of President Obama’s pace in attracting more than one million donors in 2008 and 2012. More than three-fourths of Sanders funds came from donations of $200 or less, with an average donation of about $25, while the bulk of Clinton’s contributions had come from midsize donations in the range of $200 and $2,700, according to an analysis by the Campaign Finance Institute.
Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, said yesterday that “We are thrilled and grateful for the support of hundreds of thousands of donors across the country,” noting that the campaign had raised $75 million in the first two quarters of the year. But Tad Devine, a veteran Democratic strategist who has been advising Sanders, told the Post “it’s remarkable that Bernie Sanders was able to raise almost as much money as Hillary Clinton,” especially given the way that he raised it.
Sanders clearly is on a roll – and in fact raised $2 million of his $26 million on Wednesday alone as supporters made a last minute push to try to match or exceed Clinton’s total. He appears on track to raise a total of $100 million by the end of the year. Clinton, meanwhile, is doing well on the fundraising front by most measures.
However, she continues to struggle to energize her Democratic base and shake loose of the controversy over her mishandling of email during her four years as Obama’s secretary of state by using a private server. Politico reported today that the number of her private emails that have now been deemed classified by the State Department has more than doubled, to over 400 messages.
Sanders’ is notoriously stingy with his funds and reportedly has $25 million in cash on hand. That puts him in a strong position heading into the first nationally televised Democratic presidential debate on Oct. 13. Clinton holds a 13-point lead over Sanders in the Real Clear Politics aggregated national polling data -- 40.8 percent to 27.6 percent, with 20 percent for Vice President Joseph Biden, who has yet to decide on whether to enter the race.