Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders greatly eclipsed former Vice President Joe Biden in fundraising over the past three months, placing progressive Democrats on strong footing in the crucial final stretch before primary voting begins.
Warren’s campaign reported to donors Friday morning that the Massachusetts senator raised $24.6 million from more than half a million donors in the fundraising quarter that ended Monday. The amount is just shy of the haul by her Senate colleague and fellow progressive Sanders, of Vermont, who earlier in the week reported raising $25.3 million.
“Our grassroots movement is in an incredible position,” Warren campaign manager Roger Lau said in an e-mail to supporters. He invited them to “close your eyes and picture Wall Street bankers scowling into their catered breakfast” upon hearing of Warren’s haul. Some 300,000 donors to Warren in the last quarter were giving to her for the first time.
The fundraising report answered an important question for Warren’s campaign — whether she would be able to match her rise in polls with the resources needed to sustain her campaign in key primary states.
By contrast, despite an aggressive fundraising schedule and, at least until recently, front-runner status, Biden’s numbers were anemic. The former vice president’s campaign says he raised $15.2 million.
The fundraising gap threatens to erode Biden’s argument that he is the most electable Democrat.
The ability of Warren and Sanders to raise huge amounts online further cements the power of small donors in modern presidential politics. The two senators have disavowed private fundraisers, collecting all of their money instead from modest givers who mostly donate online.
Biden, by contrast, has been spending considerable time traveling to events with deep-pocketed donors — a traditional route to the nomination, but one that has limited his time on the campaign trail. Now he will enter the final stretch before voting begins in Iowa and New Hampshire with fewer resources and a steep hill to climb to catch his rivals on the left. Many of the big donors Biden is relying on heavily have already contributed the maximum allowed by federal law.
Biden will still have more than enough cash to run a robust campaign, however, and money is just one factor in a race that has lately become fluid and unpredictable.
One of the biggest questions at the moment hangs over Sanders, who had to cancel all his campaign events this week following emergency surgery. After experiencing chest pains, the 78-year-old senator checked into the hospital, where doctors inserted two stents into one of his arteries.
The Sanders campaign said he is fast recovering and will join his rivals at the Democratic debate Oct. 15 in Ohio. But the incident cast new doubts on him at a time when his support has stagnated or declined in most polls. The Vermont senator started the race in a solid second place behind Biden. He has lately been overtaken by Warren in several voter surveys
The launch of congressional impeachment proceedings against President Trump is also shaking the race. At the center of the inquiry is Trump’s effort to get foreign leaders to investigate the financial dealings of the Biden family.
The drama in Washington could help Biden’s prospects by reinforcing his argument that he is the candidate who most panics the president. Democratic voters could rally to support him in the face of Trump’s attacks.
But the proceedings are also focusing public attention on the business career of Biden’s son, Hunter, whose family name helped land him lucrative work with a Ukrainian gas company eager to be in the good graces of the Obama administration.
With all of this in the backdrop, Warren continues to build momentum. She has taken the lead in California, polls show, and has also moved to the fore in Iowa. Some polls show her picking off erstwhile Sanders supporters who perceive her to be more electable and also as bringing fresher ideas into the race.
Some voters who were initially drawn to Biden because he seemed to them the most likely to beat Trump are switching to Warren, whose performance on the campaign trail in recent months has been far more consistent than Biden’s.
The fundraising over the last several months also revealed that this remains a race several of the lower-tier candidates could still upend. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg outpaced Biden in the last quarter to raise $19.1 million. The mayor is well positioned to become the candidate of choice for centrists should Biden stumble.
Other candidates who have struggled to capture voter attention showed that they can not yet be counted out. California Sen. Kamala Harris raised $11.6 million, which has enabled her to expand staff in Iowa, where the senator is doubling down in the final stretch before the caucus there, hoping to turn around a campaign that has endured a difficult stretch. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who entered the race a virtual unknown, continues to generate enthusiasm with his outside-the-box campaign. He raised $10 million in the last quarter.
After his campaign announced that fundraising had trickled to the point where he was prepared to abandon the race, donors stepped up for Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who netted $6 million in the last fundraising quarter.
Booker now says he is not going anywhere.