Election 2016

Sanders Breaks Fundraising Records as His Contest with Clinton Heats Up

Both campaigns have heavy campaign coffers leading into the primaries.

Photo Credit: berniesanders.com

Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton broke Democratic Party fundraising records in 2015’s final quarter, setting the stage for an epic political battle to be the party’s presidential nominee as 2016 primaries and caucuses begin in several weeks.

Sanders raised more than $33 million in the last three months of the year, bringing his 2015 total to $73 million “from more than 1 million individuals who made a record 2.5 million donations,” the campaign said in a release. “The 2,513,665 donations to Sanders’ campaign broke the record set four years ago by President Barack Obama’s re-election committee. Through Dec. 31, 2011, Obama chalked up 2,209,636 donations.”

Clinton, in contrast, brought in $38 million in 2015’s fourth quarter, bring her year-end total to $112 million. She also raised an additional $18 million for other Democratic candidates, while Sanders helped the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raise an additional $1 million.

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“Helping Democratic candidates win up and down the ticket is a top priority for Hillary Clinton, which is why she’s proud to be doing her part to ensure Democrats have the resources we need to win,” said Robby Mook, her campaign manager, in a release.

The top fourth-quarter Republican totals did not come anywhere near Sanders or Clinton. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson raised $23 million and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX raised $20 million. 

Two Democrats, Two Visions

As the new year began, Sanders and Clinton were at events that highlighted the different visions for their campaigns.

Sanders celebrated New Years Eve in Des Moines, Iowa, where between 500 and 1,000 people attended a series of events in the state that holds the first-in-the-nation caucus on Monday evening, February 1. He then headed east to events in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primary eight days later on Tuesday, February 9. On Sunday, he spoke at a senior center in Londonderry, in the state’s more populous southern tier, where he “detailed plans to lower prescription drug prices, expand Social Security, boost Meals on Wheels and improve other programs for seniors,” his website said. On Tuesday, he will go to midtown Manhattan to make a major speech on Wall Street reforms.   

The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, saw Hillary Clinton making speeches in Iowa and former President Bill Clinton returning to the campaign trail in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton started the new year with an event in Derry, New Hampshire, another southern suburban town, focusing on the high stakes in the election and the dangers of putting a Republican in the White House. On Monday and Tuesday, she will be holding events in Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Sioux City and Council Bluffs, Iowa, while Bill Clinton will be holding events in Nashua and Exeter, New Hampshire. The public entrance of Bill Clinton into his wife’s campaign is a formidable development, because he is a huge draw for Democrats and has mostly taken a backstage role in the campaign thus far.

The question facing Democrats in these early states are what kind of candidate and party do they want? Sanders is seeking to lead a political movement that would upend national politics by using the federal government’s powers to raise the standards of living of most working- and middle-class Americans by more aggressively taxing wealthy businessess and affluent individuals. In contrast, Clinton also seeks to expand federal programs that help these same slices of society, but she would be less aggressive in regulating corporate America and taxing the rich. She is also more hawkish on foreign policy, including the use of U.S. troops in major conflict regions overseas like Iraq and Syria.

While the nation’s attention will shift to the first 2016 contests—Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina—it’s likely the political contest to be the party’s nominee will be determined in the states that follow. Iowa and New Hampshire, while obviously boosting winning candidates, only award a few of the delegates needed and have a significant history of selecting candidates whose surprise wins later flounder. 

Both Sanders and Clinton have plenty of cash on hand not just to make a strong stand in Iowa and New Hampshire, but in the weeks that follow. Clinton had $38 million and Sanders had $28 million as 2015’s fundraising reports closed.

According to RealClearPolitics.com’s average of polls, Sanders leads Clinton by 4.3 percent in New Hampshire and is just shy of the 50 percent line. Meanwhile, Clinton is ahead by 12.8 percent in Iowa, and also is just shy of the 50 percent line.

In many respects, both of these races are too close to call. In 2008, Clinton led Obama by wide margins, but a record-breaking turnout by young people—the same cadre that’s behind the Sanders surge—propelled Obama to victory in Iowa. That same year in New Hampshire, Clinton came back and beat Obama after busing in supporters from upstate New York to stand on street corners with signs, an old New Hampshire get-out-the-vote tactic. In 2016, Sanders’ home state lies in between New York and New Hampshire. 

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Steven Rosenfeld is a senior writing fellow of the Independent Media Institute, where he covers national political issues. He is the author of several books on elections, most recently Democracy Betrayed: How Superdelegates, Redistricting, Party Insiders, and the Electoral College Rigged the 2016 Election (March 2018, Hot Books).