Bernie Sanders is raising phenomenal campaign cash — in tiny increments. The Democratic Socialist announced Thursday that his presidential campaign raised $34.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. That haul, secured from 1.8 million donations averaging less than $20 a pop, puts him nearly $10 million ahead of the respective quarterly results for rivals Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, both of whom have catered to large-dollar donors at high-end fundraisers.
Sanders’ huge haul comes in the wake of a Democratic debate when he ribbed his rivals for their richest backers. “Now there’s a real competition going on up here,” Sanders said. “My good friend Joe received contributions from 44 billionaires. Pete, on the other hand is trailing. Pet e, you only got 39 billionaires contributing. So Pete, we look forward to you. I know you’re an energetic guy and a competitive guy to see if you could take on Joe on that issue.”
The Vermont senator got yuks in real time — and the last laugh as his people-powered money machine is far outperforming the billionaire-backed fundraising of the former vice president and the McKinsey-pedigreed Mayor Pete. Biden — who was recently seen raking bucks in the Bel Air home of former MGM movie studios CEO Harry Sloan — raised $22.7 million in the quarter that ended at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Buttigieg — whose fundraising in the quarter included a now infamous visit to a Napa Valley wine cave — raised $24.7 million.
Sanders also appears to have bested the campaign of Elizabeth Warren for the quarter. Like Sanders, Warren has sworn off fancy fundraising dinners, seeking to finance her campaign only with grassroots donations. But her campaign sent out a late-December plea to supporters warning she was short of the $20 million she’d set as her campaign’s quarterly target. (UPDATE: Warren raised $21.2 million, a bit less than Biden.)
The latest haul gives Sanders cash to invest in his ground game for the Iowa caucuses, which are now barely a month away. Meanwhile the campaign’s most valuable asset — the candidate himself — is freed up from the time suck of fundraising pitstops, and can focus exclusively on persuading voters that he’s the best bet to take on Trump in 2020.