DemDaily: Show Me The Money

April 12, 2019

The first results are In!

In the first full quarter reporting period since most of the 2020 presidential contenders announced, candidates have begun to release the results of their fundraising efforts.

The figures reflect totals as of the Federal Election Commission's March 31st deadline. Although candidates do not officially file their numbers with the FEC until April 15th, many have publicized their totals in advance in an attempt to show early viability.

While analysts scramble to interpret the figures, a closer look indicates what we already know -- the road to the White House will be a long and historically expensive one!


The Federal Elections Commission (FEC) governs activity related to federal campaigns, including the US presidential. As of 2019, individuals may contribute up to $2,800 per each election (primary, general, runoff, special)

Why It Matters
Early fundraising totals have traditionally been viewed as an indicator of a candidates' credibility and, in this cycle, an ability to break through a crowded field of caliber contenders.

With the ability to raise virtually millions of dollars in a day, however, a candidate's fundraising totals are no longer the primary measure of success.

The New View

In February, the Democratic National Committee announced new primary debate requirements, adding small dollar donors, or grassroots support, as a metric.

In addition to the threshold of 1% in the polls, or candidates must receive contributions from at least 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 U.S. states to qualify for the debate stage.

A number of candidates distinguished themselves by their fundraising haul in the first 24 hours following their entry into the race.

Senator Bernie Sanders raised $5.9 million on day one, compared to $1.5 million on his first day in 2015. He also benefits from a national political and donor infrastructure that has been building since his 2016 run, with a commitment of $600,000 in contributions that will recur monthly.

Relative newcomers Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg received big boosts on their first day, raising respectively $6.1 million and $7 million.

These figures, however, can be deceiving, as in all cases the money momentum slowed significantly after opening day.

Donor Indecision
While the amount of money raised by the current field is astounding, the numbers are still lower compared to this point in the 2008 primary, when Hillary Clinton reported $26.1 million, and Barack Obama $25.7 million in the first quarter. In 2016, Clinton raised $47.5 million in her first quarter.

The breakdown further indicates a hesitation by many wealthy donors and bundlers to throw their full support behind one candidate this early in the primary.

While some have contributed to a number of candidates, others are simply waiting on the full field, including the anticipated entrance of former Vice President Joe Biden and former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

The first Democratic primary debate is scheduled for June 26th & 27th in Miami, Florida.

DemList will keep you informed.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: FEC, Open Secrets, Ballotpedia, TheHill, FoxNews, WashingtonPost, Axios

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