Bernie Sanders raised $34.5m for his presidential campaign in the last three months of 2019, notching up the biggest quarterly money haul so far of any contender for this year’s Democratic nomination and highlighting the resilience of his leftwing bid for the White House.
The 78-year-old senator from Vermont reported the strong fundraising figures on Thursday, a month before voters in Iowa cast the first ballots in the Democratic race to challenge US President Donald Trump in the November general election.
Mr Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has often been dismissed as a plausible winner of the nomination because of his staunchly liberal views and policies. But the enduring enthusiasm for his campaign suggests he will continue to play a big role in the race as voting begins.
According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Mr Sanders has the support of 19.1 per cent of Democratic voters on a national level, trailing frontrunner Joe Biden, the former vice-president. Mr Sanders is also in second place in Iowa, with the support of 20 per cent of Democratic voters, just behind Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, according to RCP.
“Together, we’re proving you don’t need to beg the wealthy and the powerful for campaign contributions in order to win elections,” Mr Sanders wrote on Twitter. He noted that the fundraising tally was the result of 1.8m contributors offering an average of $18 each.
Mr Sanders’ quarterly fundraising tally puts him well ahead of the $24.7m brought in by Mr Buttigieg’s campaign during the same period. Mr Biden and Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who is also among the leading candidates, have not announced their fundraising totals for the fourth quarter.
So far, all of the Democratic contenders have been eclipsed in their fundraising by Mr Trump, who raked in $46m in the fourth quarter as his campaign sought financial support for his re-election on the back of his impeachment by the House of Representatives.
News of Mr Sanders’ fundraising prowess came as the field of Democratic candidates narrowed with the exit of Julian Castro, a former housing secretary under Barack Obama and the only Latino in the contest. Mr Castro, who hails from Texas, had never managed to break into the top tier of candidates.
“I’m going to keep fighting for an America where everyone counts — I hope you’ll join me in that fight,” he said as he left the race.
Mr Sanders, who unsuccessfully challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2016, has been able to maintain a steady base of younger and more progressive voters, notching up endorsements from prominent liberals including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic member of Congress from New York. Mr Sanders kept up his campaign even after suffering a heart attack in early October. His main rival on the left flank of the Democratic field is Ms Warren, whose campaign surged over the summer but lost momentum in the final stretch of 2019.
“A lot of establishment interests in the Democratic party went after Warren a few weeks ago when she was seen as the frontrunner but have more or less ignored Bernie, figuring his chances were low,” Brian Fallon, a former justice department official under Mr Obama and press secretary to Mrs Clinton’s 2016 campaign, wrote on Twitter. “Today’s fundraising numbers are proof people underestimate Sanders at their peril,” he added.
Mr Sanders’ cash haul could help him place more television adverts in key states, where Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, two self-funded billionaires, have been flooding the airwaves with their presidential campaign messages, despite lagging behind in the polls.