WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders reported Tuesday that he raised $25.3 million during the third fundraising quarter, the largest three-month sum a Democratic White House hopeful has posted all year and an amount that ensures he will be an enduring presence in the primary.
Pete Buttigieg, who entered the race as the little-known mayor of South Bend, Indiana, also released his numbers, pulling in $19.1 million for the quarter, an almost $6 million dip from his field-leading sum last quarter but an amount that’s destined to place him in the top tier.
The large sums, which were posted after the notoriously dry summer fundraising months, come as both candidates have faced skepticism about their prospects. Buttigieg has struggled to break out of single-digit polling, while Sanders has faced a drumbeat of speculation that progressive rival Elizabeth Warren is eating into his base of support.
Taken together, the figures offer a clear sign that both candidates will have ample resources to compete in the final months before the Iowa Caucuses in February. They are the first two contenders to release their numbers, which don’t have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission until Oct. 15.
“Media elites and professional pundits have tried repeatedly to dismiss this campaign, and yet working-class Americans keep saying loudly and clearly that they want a political revolution,” said Faiz Shakir, campaign manager for the Vermont senator.
In the days and hours before Monday’s fundraising deadline, Democratic candidates pleaded for campaign cash, making appeals on social media and collectively blasting out more than 80 emails asking supporters to “chip in” $5, $10 or $50.
An email from Sanders said, “I hate asking people for money” — and then asked for money. Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign warned that President Donald Trump would “feel like he won” if a fundraising goal wasn’t reached. And former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke offered to “try to text you” in exchange for $5.
There’s a growing sense of urgency as the primary becomes a fierce battle for a limited pool of cash that could make the difference between staying in the race and heading for the exits. Those who continue to muddle along in the lower tier will not only face challenges paying for advertising to amplify their message, but they are also likely to struggle reaching fundraising thresholds set by the Democratic National Committee to qualify for future debates.
Top-tier candidates like Sanders, Buttiegieg, Biden and Warren, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, are anticipated to be among the leaders in the field. But others are facing pressure to post competitive numbers or get out, something that might not happen soon enough for some angsty Democrats.
“If you are being outraised 3-to-1 by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden, you have no viable path to victory,” said Rufus Gifford, Barack Obama’s former finance director. “Even if you can compete in the early states … shortly thereafter you will run out of money.”
Cory Booker recently warned that unless he juiced his fundraising numbers by an additional $1.7 million he’d likely have to drop out, stating that he didn’t “believe people should stay in this just to stay in it.” But the New Jersey senator announced he surpassed his goal on Monday, raising $2 million after enlisting help from Hillary Clinton and his girlfriend, the actress Rosario Dawson.
Regardless, he will still lag behind the top contenders even if he has an outstanding quarter.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, who has also struggled to raise money, announced Monday that he’s applying for public financing, turning to a fund that is replenished by those who volunteer to chip in $3 from their taxes. He hopes it will supplement his campaign with a $2 million fundraising boost.
The third quarter is coming to a close as Trump faces an impeachment inquiry in Congress related to his attempts to get the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden. The development has scrambled politics in Washington but has turned into a fundraising rallying cry for both major political parties.
Trump has turned his outrage over the inquiry into a flood of campaign cash. Trump and the Republican National Committee reported raising $13 million in the three days after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the probe last week. And Trump’s son Eric tweeted later that the total grew to $15 million.
That’s on top of what’s already expected to be a major haul for the quarter. Trump and the RNC previously reported pulling in more than $210 million since the start of 2019, more than his Democratic rivals combined.
That’s a source of worry for some Democrats concerned it will be hard to catch Trump once a nominee is selected.
“Trump’s presidency is wounded but not mortally wounded, and their operation is as good as it gets,” Gifford said.
Like Trump, some Democrats have treated the impeachment inquiry as a fundraising opportunity. Biden ramped up Facebook ad spending that seized on unfounded allegations made against him and his son Hunter by Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York.
A recent series of Biden ads asking for donations said Trump was “trying to distract you from what’s really at stake for your family by spreading lies about my family,” and his campaign says they’ve seen a significant uptick in donations.
Sanders, Warren and California Sen. Kamala Harris have also made fundraising appeals based around impeachment, with Sanders’ campaign saying the final day of the quarter was one of its biggest days since launching his bid in February.
But in a sign that the primary could be taking a bitter turn, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who has also struggled to raise money, took aim at her rivals for capitalizing on impeachment.
“Candidates for POTUS who are fundraising off ‘impeachment’ are undermining credibility of inquiry in eyes of American people, further dividing our already fractured country,” she tweeted on Monday. “Please stop. We need responsible, patriotic leaders who put the interests of our country before their own.”