Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders raised more than $26 million in the critical third Quarter reporting period in his campaign for the Democrat nomination, almost matching Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
Long considered the presumptive nominee, Clinton raised $28 million in the quarter, edging out Sanders by a mere $2 million.
Clinton supporters may dismiss polls showing a surging Sanders as an aberration of early polling, but Sanders’ money haul is much harder to explain away. Considering the fact that Sanders has a much smaller campaign operation, as David Axelrod conjectured on Twitter, he may actually have more cash-on-hand for the next phase of the campaign than Clinton.
We won’t know the answer to that question until next week, when the fundraising reports detailing activity between July and September are publicly available.
Going into this quarter, though, Clinton had around 400 paid-staffers, by far the most of any Presidential campaign. The Sanders campaign, by contrast, had about 80 paid staff and interns. Clinton has also been spending large sums on paid advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire, a tactic the Sanders campaign hasn’t started yet.
As a result, the Clinton campaign needs a lot of donations to keep its engines running. In the second Quarter this year, when all campaigns were in their earliest stages, the Clinton campaign spent more than $6 million every month. The Sanders campaign, however, was spending just over $1.5 million.
Sanders’ impressive fundraising haul has been fueled by on-line donations. When announcing his overall funding numbers, his campaign reported that the socialist had received over 1 million on-line donations.
Sanders’ on-line fundraising, in fact, is growing at a faster rate than Barack Obama’s campaign for the nomination in 2007-2008. Obama didn’t hit the million mark in on-line donations until the first part of 2008, after voting had already begun.
Because of his success with on-line donations, Sanders likely has more room to grow his fundraising operation than Clinton. The Clinton campaign’s fundraising has been built on aggressive solicitation of donors to give the maximum $2,700 contribution to the campaign.
Hillary hosted 58 events to raise money, while Sanders hosted just seven. A large number of maxed-out donors to Hillary may now give money to Sanders, if only to hedge their bets.
It is important to remember that current polling showing Sanders leading Clinton in the early states and neutralizing her lead nationally has come without any paid media or advertising from his campaign. Clinton, meanwhile, has spent millions promoting her own messages.
Based on his third Quarter success, Sanders is now going to be able to run ads in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early states. Clinton, with help from her Super PACs, will certainly be able to spend more than Sanders. She won’t be able to spend an order of magnitude more, however.
With Sanders able to engage fully across all aspects of the campaign, who knowns how low Clinton’s numbers can go. A frontrunner in a campaign is always inevitable until they aren’t. Sanders just posted 26 million reasons why Clinton’s coronation plans should be put on hold.