Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders dominated the 2020 fundraising race last year, amassing a war chest that neared $100 million, by far the most of any contender in the historically large primary pool.
According to quarterly filings with the Federal Election Commission, Sanders fundraised a staggering $96 million over the course of 2019 since launching his campaign in mid-February. The Vermont senator and self-described democratic socialist was consistently near the top of the 2020 pack each quarter.
The nearest contender, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, lagged behind by more than $20 million. Over the course of the year, Buttigieg received $75.6 million in donations, an impressive amount for a candidate who began the year as a virtual unknown on the national stage.
Sanders has sworn off super PAC money, instead relying on small-dollar donations to fund his second presidential bid. The progressive senator's fundraising strategies differ dramatically from more moderate candidates, including Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden, who have accepted PAC donations.
“Bernie Sanders is closing the year with the most donations of any candidate in history at this point in a presidential campaign,” Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a recent statement. “He is proving each and every day that working-class Americans are ready and willing to fully fund a campaign that stands up for them and takes on the biggest corporations and the wealthy."
In third place is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who brought in $70.9 million after a lackluster first quarter when she fundraised just $6 million. Warren’s fundraising peaked during the third quarter, coinciding with her spike in national polls (at one point, she appeared poised to topple Biden as the frontrunner).
Despite maintaining a near stranglehold on first place nationally -- Sanders was neck-and-neck with him in a new national poll released on Friday -- Biden came in fourth place in terms of money raised. His campaign, which officially launched at the end of April, much later than the other candidates, brought in $59.2 million.
Following Biden was entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who’s running on a platform centered on universal base income. He raised about $31 million in 2019. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, in sixth, has raked in about $25.4 million.
Fundraising doesn’t necessarily show who’s going to win the primary, but it’s an important indication of enthusiasm for a candidate and is necessary to propel the contenders through an arduous and expensive primary process. (It’s not unusual for the incumbent to out-earn the opposition — especially when the challenger’s primary field is so crowded.)
Candidates are obligated to disclose their spending and cash-on-hand amounts, another important metric of how their campaigns are faring, by Jan. 31, the Federal Election Committee’s year-end deadline — just three days before the Iowa caucuses kick start the nominating process.