vision 2020

Bernie Sanders’s Campaign Is an Early Fundraising Powerhouse

Sanders on the up and up in his first week as a 2020 candidate. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images

In the week following his second presidential campaign announcement, Bernie Sanders raised $10 million from over 359,914 donors — equivalent to over half the population of his home state. The senator from Vermont is living up to his popular standing in the polls, following up on his $5.9 million first day by courting new and vital recurring donors to the effort. (The next closest day-one fundraising was Kamala Harris, with $1.5 million.) “Our second day was bigger than anybody else’s first day,” Ari Rabin-Havt, a senior adviser to Sanders, told the New York Times.

Aside from the $10 million total — representing 14 percent of Sanders’s fundraising sum in 2015 — three factors from week one stand out in the senator’s favor. In a race where the source of the fundraising could be as important as the money itself, Sanders is relying on small gifts from young donors: According to the Times, donations to the economic populist averaged around $26, and the most common age for a donor was 30 years old. The 2020 field has shifted way to the left of the last cycle, and among the more liberal candidates in the pack, corporate donations could act as a PR burden. Already, Elizabeth Warren — with whom Sanders shares a good deal of his policy stances — announced she will no longer hold fundraisers with wealthy donors, while Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand said they will steer clear of corporate PAC money.

Second, it looks as if Sanders has attracted a new swath of voters, according to information shared with the Times. Almost 39 percent of donors used an email address that was not registered with the 2016 campaign. Assuming the vast majority of those aren’t old donors using new emails, it suggests the campaign has broadened its support since the 2016 run, in which Sanders pulled in 43.1 percent of the primary vote. “There’s an assumption he’s relying on that loyal base of support from 2016,” Democratic strategist Jen Psaki told the Times. The new donors could “make people question the assumption that Bernie supporters are solely Bernie loyalists from 2016.”

Third, the 2020 Sanders has a built-in sustaining donor base, who have signed up to send monthly donations that will reportedly net over $1 million each month. In a crowded race, where at least ten candidates are vying for small donations, Sanders’s 48,000 monthly donors will help give the campaign momentum for the long run.

The Sanders campaign “did not provide a breakdown by gender” to the Times, bringing up speculation that gender trouble could hit Bernie again during his second presidential bid. Another recurring concern for the candidate is the evidence that he cannot actually compete among white, working class voters — though both of those pictures will become clearer in the coming months.

As the only holdover candidate from 2016, the Vermont senator naturally enjoys a couple advantages that his fellow candidates do not: Democratic voters already know his platform, and his young donor base is still intact. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that on his first day, Sanders netted four times that of Kamala Harris, and 20 times that of Elizabeth Warren. It’s obscenely early in the 2020 cycle — obligatory reminder that the Democratic National Convention is a grueling 15 months away — but Sanders’s first week proves that the 77 year old has the legs for another competitive run.

Bernie Sanders’s Campaign Is an Early Fundraising Powerhouse