Back in May, when Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was a long-shot unknown in the primaries, he had one message for those who naysayed his bid for the presidency: Don’t underestimate him.
“I fully concede that I get into this race as a major underdog. No question about it. I mean, Hillary Clinton is known by 95 percent of the American people. And clearly, in terms of money, I will be very, very, very heavily outspent,” the Independent senator from Vermont said in an interview early in his candidacy, before uttering what may have been very prophetic words.
“Don’t underestimate me. We’re going to do better than people think. And I think we got a shot to win this thing.”
And although poll numbers still show Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton leading in almost every poll, Sanders and his campaign managed to raise a jaw-dropping $33 million-plus during the last three months of 2015. And that haul, without the added boost of millions from super PACs, of which Sanders firmly refuses to use, puts him within $4 million of the $37 million raised by Clinton during the same period.
This brings the Sanders campaign to nearly a total of $73 million raised in his bid for the White House, according to campaign officials. And, perhaps even more significantly, there were more than 1 million separate donors who made more than 2.5 million contribution to Sanders. These figures surpass President Obama’s previous record for individual contributions. At this point in Obama’s campaign, he had collected 2.2 million contributions.
Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, was both enthusiastic and confident in the statement released in regard to the money raised.
“This people-powered campaign is revolutionizing American politics. What we are showing is that we can run a strong national campaign without a super PAC and without depending on millionaires and billionaires for their support.”
Tad Devine, Sanders’ top strategist, admitted that the campaign fundraising has brought in more than what they had hoped to bring in during 2015 — by a lot. Although Sanders has always been known as a “formidable fundraiser” who relies heavily on small, individual donors and grassroots efforts, no one was prepared for just how well the campaign would do, nearly doubling the $40 million that the campaign originally had hoped to bring in during 2015.
Campaign aides said the average donation during the October-to-December fundraising quarter was $27.16 a piece.
Sanders is now spending his cash more heavily and rapidly as the first round of primary voting nears. According to his campaign, he ended 2015 with $28.4 million in available cash out of the nearly $73 million raised. In comparison, Clinton, who has reportedly collected a total of $112 million for her own bid for the presidency, has nearly $38 million available in ready cash, according to figures her campaign released on Friday.
Much of Sanders’ spending, aides explain, concentrated on “building infrastructure in early primary states,” in methods that included dispatching organizers to states like South Carolina and Nevada, while building upon the campaign’s already-existing organizations in Iowa and New Hampshire.
For the year, Sanders’ campaign spent 61 percent of the money it brought in.
A bulk of Clinton’s haul came from fundraisers she or her husband, former President Bill Clinton, headlined in 2015 — a total of 58 fundraisers in the fourth quarter, which is identical to the 58 events Clinton headlined in the second and third quarters of 2015. Former President Bill Clinton headlined dozens more fundraisers on his own on his wife’s behalf.
Two Republicans — Ben Carson and Senator Ted Cruz — have also released their fundraising totals for the fourth and final quarter of 2015. The two GOP hopefuls have raised $23 million and $20 million, respectively, this quarter. Cruz’s campaign’s haul shows a striking upward jump from the $12.2 million he raised last quarter, and he has emerged as a serious contender against Republican front-runner Donald Trump in Iowa.
Candidates have until January 31, which is the eve of the Iowa caucuses, to disclose details of their fundraising and spending to federal regulators.
[Image credit: Getty Images North America]