“Can Bernie Sanders win Iowa?” asks the CNN analyst covering the final-quarter fundraising in the Democratic primary. According to the presumed frontrunners’ performances — on money intake, anyway — Bernie has some serious resources to throw at the contest. Sanders scored $34.5 million in Q4, enough to take the lead away from Pete Buttigieg, who earlier announced a Q4 haul of $24.7.
Topline numbers aren’t everything, though, not to mention we haven’t seen them all yet:
Sen. Bernie Sanders raised more than $34.5 million for his White House bid during the final three months of 2019 — a sign of his considerable financial strength a little more than a month before Democrats begin selecting their 2020 presidential nominee. https://t.co/zFvjNCB8nZ pic.twitter.com/rmDpu0EQLr
— CNN (@CNN) January 2, 2020
Sanders’ fourth-quarter fundraising not only surpasses the $24.7 million raised by Pete Buttigieg this quarter, but it also significantly outpaces his own previous totals. Sanders raised roughly $18 million in each of the first two quarters of the year and $25.3 million in the third quarter.
Other Democratic presidential contenders have not reported their totals for the final three months of the year but seem unlikely to topple Sanders as the Democrats’ fundraising leader.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told supporters in late December that she had raised $17 million and encouraged her backers to help her hit a goal of $20 million by year’s end. The goal represented about 20% less than she had collected in the third quarter — pointing to a significant dip in fundraising.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign has claimed a financial rebound. In a memo to journalists last month, his campaign manager said that as of December 1, Biden had raised more in October and November than the $15.7 million he had collected in the previous three months. But he had not released his fourth-quarter totals as of Wednesday evening.
The fourth-quarter fundraising performance is closely watched as a sign of candidates’ ability to fund their campaigns through the early voting contests and whether they have built strong financial bases for a general election face-off with President Donald Trump, who has been raising record sums.
The FEC statements are not yet public, but Sanders has hoarded his money well up to this point. In 2019’s first three quarters, Sanders personally raised $61.5 million and spent just over $45 million. Combined up with some transfers, Sanders had $33 million cash on hand to start Q4. Unless he’s suddenly gone on a spending spree, the new cash infusion should give him an impressive war chest for the final stretch in Iowa.
Buttigieg is doing well but not as well. His numbers are a little more straightforward; he’s raised $51.5 million, spent $28.2 million, and had $23.4 million on hand at the end of Q3. That puts him well behind Sanders, but it’s still impressive for a Midwest mayor with no national profile before this race.
What about Sanders’ other top-tier competitor? First, Elizabeth Warren has raised almost the same as Bernie in the first three quarters ($60.3 million) but spent more of it ($34.6 million), and has Mayor-Pete money left in the bank at the end of Q3 ($25.7 million). None of this is exactly poverty, but Warren’s Q4 numbers better show a similar kind of rocket boost as Bernie’s if she’s going to continue being a serious candidate in caucus states.
What about Front Runner Joe? In taking a look at Biden’s EOQ3 figures, one can only say hoo boy:
- Total receipts: $37.8 million
- Total disbursements: $28.8 million
- Cash on hand: $9 million
Comparatively speaking, for a frontrunner in this cycle, that’s pretty pathetic. It’s even worse when one remembers that Joe Biden hasn’t pledged to eschew large donors, such as Sanders and Warren have; in fact, he’s been actively recruiting deep-pocket donors, so much so that at some point he might tap them out. Biden’s cash-on-hand number is only a little better than Andrew Yang’s, or at least it was at the end of Q3. Unless he posts breakout numbers in Q4, not only do Democrats have to worry about their frontrunner’s competitiveness in ground-ops-intensive Iowa, they have to be flat-out terrified about how Biden can compete in the general election against Donald Trump.
Speaking of which, here are the president’s war-chest numbers, through Q3:
- Total receipts: $97.8 million
- Total disbursements: $33.9 million
- Cash on hand: $88.2 million
The superior COH position reflects his official entry into the race in 2017. He’s outraising his rivals, he’s outspending them, and he has far more in the bank. When combined with the RNC, the numbers jump up dramatically. The combine raised $125 million in Q3 alone and held $158 million cash on hand.
We’ll know more when Biden and Warren release their official FEC filings. At the moment, it looks like a four-way fight for Iowa that might leave at least a couple of campaigns sucking for oxygen, while Trump keeps cruising to a major campaign advantage. The big question with that will be — is he putting it to good use in ground operations in key states like Iowa, or just buying lots of ads?