Bernie Sanders kicked off his 2020 presidential bid with an early morning interview with Vermont Public Radio. The interview was coupled with a social media campaign and announcement video, meant to drum up support for the Sanders campaign, with a goal of reaching one million supporters. The Sanders campaign is well on the way to that goal and almost 200,000 people signed up in the first twenty-four hours. Perhaps more importantly, Bernie Sanders showed he still has the incredible ability to collect massive amounts of campaign funding from small donors, dwarfing the first day totals of every Democrat currently in the race.
In fact, nobody even came close. Kamala Harris came closest and on day one she raised $1.5 million from 38,000 individual contributors. The Harris camp was quick to point out these numbers tied Bernie Sanders first day fundraising totals in 2016. At the time, Bernie had not yet announced, so what Bernie’s fundraising totals would look like in a more crowded field remained an open question, until yesterday.
Bernie Sanders finally stepped into the presidential primary and proved that his small donor army still stands with him. Bernie Sanders surpassed Kamala Harris’s totals in just three hours. By the end of the business day after news of his announcement had spread, Bernie Sanders raised more than $4 million dollars, beating Hillary Clinton’s 2016 numbers. With another 8 hours of fundraising it’s possible that number climber to $5 million or higher. All from over 150,000 individual contributors.
That’s just the people who donated though, the big push that Bernie coupled with his announcement was one to reach one million supporters. In less than 24 hours over 350,000 signed up. Meaning that one million supporter goal will likely be shattered in no time. More importantly though it means the $5 million plus dollar haul Bernie Sanders reeled in from day one will be replicated again and again. Time and time again, campaign turning point after turning point, Bernie Sanders will rake in the small donor dollars that fueled his insurgent 2016 campaign and made this run possible to begin with.
It’s worth remembering just how astonishing Bernie’s fundraising totals were. He was the first candidate in the race to reach a million individual contributors and after almost every notable event in the primary, there would be headlines detailing the millions of dollars that poured into Bernie’s campaign coffers. Millions poured in after every single debate performance. After winning the New Hampshire primary Bernie Sanders asked his supporters for more money to fuel his growing campaign, they came through with $8 million dollars. Even before voting started these small donations ensured Bernie Sanders outpaced Hillary Clinton’s fundraising month to month. He also capitalized on small moments, like a one-off Hillary attack on his Medicare-For-All plan, to raise even more money. ($2 million from that particular email).
These donors kept his campaign afloat while running against one of the most well funded political machines in modern history. They were the key to his success in 2016 and will be key to his victory in 2020 if that actually materializes. Which it very well could, especially given so much of Bernie’s bass seems to remain engaged and intact.
This Time Bernie Sanders is the Frontrunner not an Underdog
Bernie Sanders won’t be the underdog trying to compete with a behemoth this time. Instead he’s a frontrunner, looking to solidify his lead. His numbers should scare every single Democrat in the raise and all those still on the fence (looking at you Joe Biden). Especially considering there will likely be 10+ other candidates potential donors, both big dollar and grassroots, to throw their money at. So every candidate is fighting for an ever dwindling pie and to the extent Bernie Sanders shares that pie with his more establishment counterparts, he’s got a huge piece of it to himself.
However, if we’re using bad pie metaphors to make points about campaign finance, which we are, Bernie Sanders has baked his own pie. He might have taken some ingredients from other candidates, but ultimately his base of support is a unique political creature. The base of the Democratic Party is just that, the base of the Democratic Party. There is obviously some crossover, but the true diehards in either camp have long picked a side, their position was already baked in, so to speak. (That was awful, right). So really, the Democrats are all fighting over their own pie, which is great for Bernie.
Every dollar Bernie raises now is a dollar that puts him ahead of the game. His warchest is formidable and everyone knows it. He’s got a lead, he’s in a position to grow that lead, it won’t be easy, but it’s his election to lose.