Government

2020 presidential race becoming most costly in history

Sanders announces $34.5M haul as Castro calls it quits

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks last Sunday at a town hall in Newport, N.H. Sa
Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks last Sunday at a town hall in Newport, N.H. Sanders says he raised more than $34.5 million in the final three months of 2019, showing that a recent heart attack hasn’t slowed the Vermont senator’s fundraising prowess with just weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses. (Cheryl Senter/Associated Press)

A month before the Iowa caucuses — on a day that one presidential candidate quit and another was reported to have fired her entire staff — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Thursday he had raised more than $34.5 million in the final three months of 2019, a haul that will let him run an extensive campaign this year.

Former Vice President Joe Biden reported bringing in $22.7 million during the same period, a rebound from the $15.7 million he’d raised in the previous three months.

Nonetheless, Biden once again trailed not just Sanders but also Pete Buttigieg. The former mayor of South Bend, Ind., announced Wednesday he’d received more than $24.7 million.

But this week also has been one of reckoning for other candidates who have failed to spark either donations or support in opinion polls.

Former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro, the only Hispanic in the race, dropped out after failing to garner enough backing to make recent Democratic debates.

Bestselling author and spiritual guru Marianne Williamson laid off her entire 2020 campaign staff but is pushing ahead with her presidential bid, two former staffers said Thursday.

Williamson still has events scheduled in Iowa, including a “yoga fundraiser.” But she raised only $3 million in the third quarter of 2019; her fourth-quarter results were not reported.

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Even with his surge of new donations, Sanders fell a few million dollars shy of what 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton raised in the same period in that election cycle. But Sanders’ campaign noted his fourth-quarter contributions came from more than 1.8 million individual donations and that the average contribution was $18.53, indicators of grassroots support.

“Bernie Sanders is closing the year with the most donations of any candidate in history at this point in a presidential campaign,” campaign manager Faiz Shakir said.

This 2020 presidential race is shaping up to be the most expensive in history, in part because billionaires Michael R. Bloomberg and Tom Steyer each have already spent more than $100 million of their own money on advertising.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang reported donations of more than $16.5 million in the last three months of 2019, a sharp rise from the $10 million he collected during the previous three months.

No other candidates have released their fundraising numbers, though Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s campaign has indicated that contributions slowed.

None of the four candidates who announced their donation totals released a key figure — the cash they have on hand entering the new year.

The $9 million that Biden reported having in the bank three months ago was an alarming sign to some of his backers, who feared he could have trouble staying competitive with his rivals.

Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz told supporters Thursday in a memo that the former vice president’s team was thrilled by the improved fundraising numbers. He noted Biden’s steady front-runner status in national polls.

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“Our campaign’s momentum in recent weeks and months is impossible to miss,” he wrote.

Campaign finance disclosures that detail cash on hand, donors, spending and other granular information are not due to be filed with the Federal Election Commission until Jan. 31 — just before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses Feb. 3.

Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg and Yang released top-line numbers as the candidates geared up for a dizzying month, and as the race has increasingly revolved around the power of the wealthy, including donors.

Sanders and Warren, who have renounced big-dollar fundraisers in the 2020 campaign, attacked Buttigieg at the December Democratic debate in Los Angeles for holding a private fundraiser at a Napa Valley, Calif., “wine cave” and having billionaire benefactors. It would later emerge that Warren herself held a fundraiser at a winery before her 2020 run.

President Donald Trump’s campaign said Thursday it raised $46 million in the last quarter of 2019. The campaign, which is not facing a strong primary challenge, reported $102.7 million in cash on hand as the election year gets underway.

The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press contributed.

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