Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson appear to be gaining the most from the fall fundraising derby, showing important momentum in the crucial months before voters head to the polls.
Hillary Clinton also showed fundraising strength, as candidates began reporting totals for the third quarter, which ended Wednesday. Other candidates have not yet disclosed their latest hauls.
The numbers say a lot about where donors big and small are placing their presidential bets. Swelling treasuries position surging candidates to gain more momentum in the months ahead, as they engage in monthly debates and voters turn serious about picking a president.
Accumulating big money now is also essential because primaries and caucuses come up fast, starting Feb. 1 in Iowa. Later that month, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada vote, and whoever emerges a top-tier candidate will need money quickly.
On March 1, an estimated 13 states, many in the South, hold primaries or caucuses that could well determine the nominee. Ads and grass-roots staff will matter. Within two weeks after that, voting in a series of big states, including Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Missouri will occur.
Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, collected $25.5 million during the three-month period, an impressive amount because he’s held far fewer fundraisers. Clinton attended a flurry of them during the period. And the former secretary of state started with a time-tested political network, while Sanders is building his virtually from scratch.
Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who has never sought or held elective office, also tapped a grass-roots network. He reportedly raised $20.2 million, with the average donation $51.
Other campaigns have not yet reported totals. Final reports for the quarter are due to the Federal Election Commission Oct. 15 and will reflect campaign finances only. Reports from SuperPACs, formed to support candidates and not subject to the same donation limits, are next due at the end of the year.
Lagging fundraising tends to doom candidates heading into the fall. Already out of the Republican race are Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Closely watched this time will be reports from candidates sagging in polls, such as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey; Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana; Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania; Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas; and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Also down in polls are Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Bush and his supporters raised $114 million by June 30. Cruz and supporting PACs raised $51 million.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said to be emerging as a favorite among big donors, is not expected to release numbers this week. Among other Republicans, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, and Carly Fiorina, a retired business executive, have climbed in recent polls, but they have not released any figures. Each only began to surge in the last few weeks.
On the Democratic side, the Clinton campaign said it was pleased with the numbers, which came from a mix of online and grass-roots donations and smaller fundraising events, with 93 percent of donations totaling $100 or less. It was the largest off-year third quarter for a non-incumbent, according to the campaign.
Her campaign has now raised $75 million this year – a sum that sends a signal to Vice President Joe Biden, who is weighing a presidential bid, that he’s going to have to work fast and furiously to catch up. Clinton’s campaign said Thursday that it has more than $32 million in the bank.
Clinton’s bigger nemesis is Sanders, who has overtaken her in recent Iowa and New Hampshire polls, demonstrated staying power and offered echoes of Barack Obama’s underdog 2008 campaign.
Sanders said he surpassed a goal of 1 million donations. His campaign said it received about 1.3 million donations from 650,000 donors since the campaign began, milestones Obama achieved months later in his 2008 effort.
Clinton hosted more than two dozen fundraisers during the third quarter. Sanders appeared at seven.
Many of Clinton’s donors have now reached the limit of what they can give for the nomination campaign. Sanders raised much of his money online, with the average donation less than $25, allowing him to continue to seek more from his same list.
Clinton has raised three times as much money, a record $47 million, as Sanders during the last quarter, a record amount of money during a primary in a candidate’s first quarter.
A pair of independent groups supporting her raised more than $20 million in the second quarter. Priorities USA Action raised $15.7 million in the second quarter, while American Bridge 21st Century raised $5 million. Sanders has no such support.
$100 million Clinton’s fundraising goal this year for the nomination campaign.
Among Republicans, front-runner Donald Trump is self-funded, and Carson has emerged as his most formidable rival. Carson’s backers have been building a grass-roots network almost since he burst onto the national political scene in February 2013 at a National Prayer Breakfast, when he criticized Obama policies as the president sat nearby.
Carson maintains his fundraising has picked up in recent weeks, particularly since he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” last month, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
Since then, his supporters have used the remark to rally supporters. “I hate political correctness. It’s dangerous,” Carson wrote to backers in a last-minute fundraising pitch this week. Such appeals reverberate among Christian right voters, particularly in Iowa.