One quarter down: How the packed 2020 Democratic presidential field fared in fundraising

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From left to right, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. All 3 are vying for the Democratic nomination for President in 2020 (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

With the first quarter FEC reporting deadline come and gone, the 2020 money race is officially on. On Monday, presidential candidates reported their fundraising numbers for January through March. Candidates have been quick to boast their small donor bonafides, laying out how much they’ve been able to raise from donors giving $200 or less.

With an early head start (he filed for reelection the night of his inauguration) President Donald Trump leads the fundraising race, posting a massive $30 million in the first quarter.  

However, despite the early start to the campaign season, no one in the crowded Democratic field has come close to reaching the massive fundraising numbers of the 2008 Democratic primary frontrunners, then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The top fundraisers so far

At the end of the first quarter, the Democratic fundraising leader is 2016 Democratic primary runner up Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Sanders raised around $18.2 million in the first quarter from 525,000 donors and transferred in another $2.5 million. He didn’t file a first quarter in the 2016 cycle because he didn’t announce until April 30 2015, but in his first filing from July 2015, Sanders raised $15.2 million.

Once again, Sanders posted impressive small donor numbers, taking in the vast majority, almost $15.3 million, from people giving under $200 each. With the field’s biggest war chest, Sanders’ campaign shelled out the most of any campaign, spending around $5 million.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) came in a strong second place, with the FEC filing reporting more than $12 million. Harris’ campaign has started strong with her regularly hitting third place in most national polls, trailing Sanders and yet-to-announce Joe Biden. Harris performed strongly with small donors, notching $4.4 million in contributions.

Her campaign previously stated that her average contribution was around $55. She also transferred in $1.2 million from her Senate committee. The campaign spent almost $4.3 million during the first quarter.

 Fundraising wunderkind former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) raised almost $9.4 million in the first three weeks of his candidacy. The majority of his support came from small donors, an impressive $5.5 million. A potential warning sign for his campaign, however, is that most of his cash — $6.1 million — came solely on his first day suggesting initial excitement dimmed. A big chunk of what he raised is already gone, he spent $2.5 million in the same time frame.  

The ascendant and increasingly popular Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., raised a surprising and substantial amount in the first quarter — more than $7 million. A majority of his contributions, around $4.5 million, came from small donors.

Buttigieg’s campaign, which became official on April 14, spent money as he started to rise dramatically in polls over the last month. Disbursements from his campaign clocked in around $685,294 with many of the expenses going towards travel and payroll for campaign staff.

Despite forgoing traditional methods of fundraising, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) raked in more than $6 million. Warren also transferred a whopping $10.4 million from her Senate committee. As she has in Senate campaigns, Warren connected well with small donors, raising more than $4.2 million from them. With the hefty amount of cash, her campaign was one of the bigger spenders racking up around $5.3 million in disbursements.

Performing better than some of her more well known Senate colleagues, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) posted relatively strong numbers — $5.2 million. A substantial amount of that came from small donors, roughly $1.8 million. She added another $3.6 million from her Senate committee. Her campaign was one of the bigger spenders thus far, spending $1.8 million.   

After holding a hometown rally in Newark on Saturday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is looking to energize his campaign which has been stagnant in polls. His campaign reported that it took in more than $5 million. Booker also transferred $2.7 million to his campaign from his Senate coffers. He didn’t get much from small donors, just $805,495. The campaign dropped almost $1.8 million in the first quarter.

Middle of the pack

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is struggling to make much of a dent in the polls, raised a modest $3 million. Her campaign reported disappointing numbers from small donors, a relatively poor $499,923. She did transfer practically all of the cash from her Senate committee, $9.6 million, boosting the campaign’s coffers for the quarter to $12.6 million. She spent $2.4 million over that time.

Governor of Washington and former congressman Jay Inslee raised almost $2.3 million. A decent chunk of that, $766,821, came from the coveted small donor demographic. As a fairly unknown western governor, Inslee’s campaign spent around $843,775. So far, Inslee is the only Democratic candidate in the race to have a supportive super PAC spending on his behalf.

John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado and running in the primary as a moderate option, raised slightly more than $2 million in the first quarter. Hickenlooper struggled with small donors, only collecting $200,741 from that group. His campaign spent $685,513.

Another campaign still looking for a publicity breakthrough is that of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). Her campaign raised a modest $1.9 million in the first quarter of the cycle. A positive sign though is the evidence of some supportive grassroots support, almost $1.1 million of what she took in came from small donors. Gabbard also transferred in $2.5 million from her congressional committee.

Most of what Gabbard raised went back out again as her campaign spent $1.7 million.

While he started as a fringe candidate, Andrew Yang has gained a viral online following, qualified for the debates and raised a relatively impressive almost $1.8 million. Nearly all of his contributions, $1.4 million, came from small donors, a testament to his strong online fan base.

Yang also previously reported fundraising numbers from 2018, when he raised an additional $354,477. This places his overall fundraising around $2.4 million in total. And throughout his entire campaign thus far, he has spent almost $1.3 million of that.

Author and activist Marianne Williamson raised better than several of the established politicians running — more than $1.5 million. Her campaign also demonstrated a grassroots connection with around $932,800 from small donors. At the end of the first quarter she was left with little cash on hand, having spent $997,471.       

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro launched his exploratory committee in December 2017 and formally announced in January. Despite the early start, his campaign hasn’t broken out in the increasingly crowded field. In the first quarter, Castro raised around $1.1 million, with $373,166 from small donors. The campaign spent almost $625,497.

Looking to catch up

Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) was the first Democrat in the race, announcing his candidacy all the way back in July 2017. Though he has been running for nearly two full years, the campaign reported rather paltry individual fundraising numbers. In the first quarter of 2019, the campaign took in just $404,301 in individual contributions. Only $73,056 of that came from small donors.

Delaney’s campaign reported $12.1 million in total receipts for quarter one, practically all of it ($11.7 million) coming in the form of loans from the independently wealthy Delaney. It spent $1.8 million in that same timeframe.

Throughout his entire candidacy, Delaney raised a total of $18.3 million with only around $116,969 coming from small donors. In all, $16.3 million of that has come from loans from Delaney himself. It has spent almost $7.8 million over the entire cycle thus far.

At the bottom of the 19-person Democratic field for now is Mayor of Miramar, Florida Wayne Messam. Without any presence in polling, Messam has so far struggled to gain any attention. After announcing his presidential bid on March 28, only three days before the quarter ended, Messam raised around $43,532. Most of his contributions, $31,960, came from large individual donors. His campaign spent just $1,701.

Three Democratic candidates did not file an April quarterly report — former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) whose campaign run by teenagers has become a viral hit, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) who announced on April 8 and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) who entered the race on April 4.

Former Republican Massachusetts Governor and one-time Libertarian Party Vice Presidential candidate Bill Weld is formally primarying Donald Trump. Weld did not file an April quarterly report.

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