Bernie Leads the DNC Field in Fourth Quarter Campaign Fundraising

Custom Politics Background

  • Last week, presidential candidates released their fourth-quarter fundraising totals.
  • On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders far exceeded his peers, with $34.5 million raised in the last three months of 2019.
  • Donald Trump collected the most, however, with $46 million donated to his reelection campaign.

Democratic Primary Campaign Numbers

On Thursday, January 2, a handful of the major 2020 presidential candidates released their fourth-quarter campaign fundraising totals. The rest did the same the next day, giving handicappers valuable insight leading into first states in the primaries.

Bernie Sanders

Most eye-opening of all – for media pundits and the people who trust them, anyway – were the figures shared by the Bernie Sanders campaign, which ended 2019 by pooling together $34.5 million. Senator from Vermont has now raised a total of $96 million from a collection of more than five-million donors.

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

This is largely due to the extremely successful fourth-quarter effort, which Sanders supporters pride themselves on being the highest-earning three-month stretch of any of the Democratic candidates this election cycle, thus far.

Pete Buttigieg

Pete Buttigieg’s campaign had a strong quarter as well, raising $24.7 million – good for the second-highest total on the Democratic side. Roughly 326,000 people donated to Mayor to close out 2019, giving him an average donation size of $33 – in a year when where the money is coming from is a crucial talking point.

That said, Mayor Pete’s numbers have a little of that “McKinsey spin” on them. Coming into the final week of the year, his campaign held a contest to see how could give the lowest unique contribution.

“All you have to do to win is donate the smallest amount that nobody else donates,” reads the email received by Buttigieg’s supporters. “Multiple donations are allowed; just be creative, pick a unique donation amount, and you could win.”

“This is so transparently hilarious. Wow, his average donation was lower this quarter… it’s a Christmas miracle!”

— Tim Tagaris (@ttagaris) December 25, 2019

Mayor Pete is trying to shake off criticisms from appealing to rich donors – particularly for a fundraiser he held in a wine cave. The competition was used to reduce his average donation size and mask how much the campaign is relying on large corporations and the wealthy to contribute.

“Pete for America Innovation Team out there working hard on Christmas Eve coming up with gimmicks to lower his average donation amount this quarter. Funny stuff,” commented Tim Tagaris, one of Bernie Sanders’ senior advisors for the campaign.

Joe Biden

In third was Joe Biden – the Democratic frontrunner, according to the polls. The former Vice President raked in $22.7 for his campaign. Despite the total trailing two of his opponents, it was Biden’s best quarter since announcing his bid to become President last April.

“I’m excited to share that we raised $22.7 million this last quarter — our biggest quarter so far this campaign! Thank you to everyone who chipped in what you could — your support means the world to me. You truly are the heart of our campaign.”

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 2, 2020

While that number feels less impressive when compared to Sanders and Mayor Pete, Biden still surpassed the $20 million mark, which is a significant benchmark for top-tier candidates. Combined with his national polling numbers, and his otherworldly resilience to bad press and Joe is still in the driver seat for the Democratic nomination.

According to Greg Schultz, Biden’s campaign manager, the candidate’s fundraising efforts were helped by Donald Trump’s impeachment:

“He is so desperate to avoid the electoral defeat he would face against Biden that he got himself impeached soliciting a foreign government in the effort. During impeachment, our average digital revenue per day more than doubled, up by 121%, where it was in the weeks preceding impeachment.”

Joe Biden’s campaign will need every penny of their fourth-quarter earnings for the final push before the Iowa caucuses. By the end of the third quarter, they had spent all but $9 million of the cash in their coffers. From now, through the first four primary states will be some of the most expensive weeks of the Democratic primaries.

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren has a little less to be excited about than the other top four candidates, as she was the only one to receive fewer fundraising dollars than the previous quarters. Her $21.2 million – while still an impressive total overall — is $3.4m short of what the Senator’s campaign pulled in from July through September.

As the race progresses…

…it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Senator Warren’s team is struggling to find a lane for the candidate. She appears to be getting squeezed out by Bernie Sanders from the left and Pete Buttigieg on the right. Like Sanders, Elizabeth Warren is relying on grass-roots fundraising and high-volume, small-dollar contributions.

The Senator used campaign finance standards to attack Pete Buttigieg in the last debate, but the strategy backfired. As it turns out, this is the first election in which Warren has chosen to eschew big-money donors and even transferred $10 million dollars she raised previously into her current war chest.

That said, Warren is picking up tons of supporters – despite the slight decline in total funds collected for the quarter. Over the final three months last year, the Massachusetts Senator received 900,000 individual contributions, average about $23 a piece. So, while the final figure may be mildly disappointing, that’s still a substantial number of voters in her base.

Andrew Yang

This feels like the right time to point out how the success or failure of a campaign’s fundraising efforts over a given quarter are relative to the candidate receiving them and expectations. That’s why Andrew Yang’s $16.5 million raised is being heralded as a monumental achievement.

The fourth quarter of 2019 cemented the tech entrepreneur as the “real deal,” and proves that he’s here to stay for the long haul, through the primaries. That’s an increase of almost 65%, having only collected $10 million in the previous quarter. The massive jump is likely the byproduct of Andrew’s phenomenal showing in the sixth Democratic debate.

The Yang campaign’s strong end to the year is especially noteworthy due to the DNC’s insistence that the candidate isn’t qualifying for the January debate – due to coming up short in the polls. Supporters argue that the accepted statewide polls haven’t been taken since mid-November and are not reflective of the current situation, which the fourth-quarter figures seem to validate.


the Democratic Party isn’t willing to fund additional polling, meaning Andrew will depend on the national numbers. Fortunately for the campaign, the news of Yang’s strong final three months of 2019 will probably show up in the nationwide stats soon enough. They’ll need to before the January 10 qualification deadline.

Amy Klobuchar

Senator Klobuchar is another Democratic candidate whose total fundraising dollars don’t tell the whole story. Her $11.4 million raised in the fourth quarter is a dramatic 137% jump over the prior three months. While still significantly less than Bernie Sanders’ $34.5 million, the Minnesota Senator’s big haul is proof that she’s seriously picking up steam as a Democratic candidate.

However, it leaves us with the question: is it better to be improving from quarter to quarter or to have the larger bankroll overall?

With the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses /primaries right around the corner, presidential campaigns will be spending huge sums of money over the next month, trying to make a final push for those prized delegates. Every candidate knows that a strong start can quickly snowball into a Democratic nomination.

Despite raising ~5 million fewer dollars than Andrew Yang, Amy Klobuchar has already qualified for the January debate in Iowa. She – more than anyone – has outperformed her overall standing in the race on the debate stage so far, which should have the Klobuchar campaign excited for how things are trending in the new year.

Donald’s $46 Million Raised Trumps Everyone

See what I did there?

While the Democrats fight amongst themselves for the almighty donor dollars, the Republican Party only has one serious candidate behind whom to throw their financial support: Donald Trump. The President filed for reelection on the night of his inauguration in 2017 and has amassed a war chest worth $211.3 million after adding the $46 million raised over the fourth quarter of 2019 alone.

These numbers speak to how hard it’s going to be to unseat the incumbent after three years of Russiagate investigations, and impeachment inquiries have done nothing but insight and solidify his base.

“Democrats and the media have been in a sham impeachment frenzy, and the president’s campaign only got bigger and stronger with our best fundraising quarter this cycle,” said Brad Parscale, Donald Trump’s campaign manager.

He’s also not worried about rejecting donations from massive international corporations or wealthy Republican benefactors like Sheldon Adelson, who will undoubtedly give even more cash in appreciation for what Trump is doing in Iran.

What this Means for Political Betting

For me, the fourth-quarter financials only solidify what I’ve already been saying – Joe Biden is over-represented in the polls, and Bernie Sanders’ likelihood of winning the nomination is being severely underrated.

Many of the prominent mainstream nationwide polls are done by making phone calls to people’s home lines, resulting in the older demographics making up the bulk of the responses.

The Sanders campaign is relying on the youth vote and growing the electorate, making them far less likely to be called upon to participate in Democratic polls. But it’s hard to see how a candidate with over five million individual donors is going to be defeated in the primaries – short of any 2016-like underhandedness.

He’s got the most money of all the Democrats and the largest number of feet on the ground in vital states like Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s also worth noting that in Iowa, a candidate must receive at least 15% of the support, otherwise their caucus voters must get behind someone else.

There’s good reason to believe that a sizable percentage of Andrew Yang’s caucus-goers would throw their weight behind Bernie if their first choice doesn’t reach that threshold.

Betting Tip
Meanwhile, the current fundraising totals also reaffirm what I’ve been expecting for the general election, which is a Donald Trump landslide victory.

He’s withstood every attack the incompetent Democratic leadership has thrown at him, while DNC officials still refuse to embrace the growing progressive wing of the party. Between the incumbent’s deep pockets and a divided opponent, the President’s odds of reelection just keep improving.

The numbers show that Bernie Sanders is the one Democrat with a reasonable shot at replacing Trump in the White House, but his party will likely actively sabotage him, making his unmatched show of strength in the primaries a moot point in the generals.

Suggested Wagers

* Betting odds found at MyBookie on 1/5

Bernie Sanders – To Win Iowa Caucus
Bernie Sanders – To Win Democratic Nomination
Donald Trump – To Win 2020 Presidential Election
Will Cormier / Author

Will Cormier is a sports and political betting writer living in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. When he’s not wandering around the streets of the Arts District aimlessly, a lifetime of pessimism and paranoia has made Will perfectly suited for handicapping politics. Cormier tries to analyze current events as objectively as possible – a strategy that often enrages loyalists on both the right and the left. When he’s not covering major upcoming elections, Will enjoys writing about basketball, football, and MMA from a betting perspective. He also loves dogs, ice cream sundaes, the movie “Stomp the Yard,” and long walks on the beach.