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President Trump, Sen. Bernie Sanders Are Front-Runners In The Money Race For 2020


One way to measure a candidate's credibility and staying power in the early stages of a campaign is to look at fundraising. And so far, according to new Federal Election Commission disclosures, President Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders have the financial edge in the 2020 presidential race. NPR's Peter Overby has more.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The financial reports for the first quarter have all been filed, and 17 Democrats managed to raise at least a million dollars each. Progressive consultant Connor Farrell lists the leaders starting with Bernie Sanders.

CONNOR FARRELL: He's raised 18 million. The next closest is Kamala Harris, who raised around 12 or 13 million, followed by Beto O'Rourke at 9, Pete Buttigieg at 7.

OVERBY: The candidates are especially chasing small donors, the kind of people who give online and do it again and again.


PETE BUTTIGIEG: I'm going to need your help. If you're ready for a new generation of American leadership, I hope you'll consider joining our grassroots fundraising team.


ELIZABETH WARREN: I don't take corporate PAC money. Shoot, I don't take PAC money of any kind.


CORY BOOKER: I said I will not take corporate contributions.


KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: And I don't believe we should have individual super PACs. So please give.


KAMALA HARRIS: Go to kamalaharris.org, and you will find it.

OVERBY: Those are Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Harris. The disclosure reports don't break out how donors give, but they do give a lump sum total for all contributions of $200 or less. That would include most of the online donors. Sanders' small donor total is $15 million. O'Rourke got 5 1/2. And Buttigieg is third with 4 1/2. Farrell said Buttigieg raised more than half his total without doing a big ask.

FARRELL: He has not spent or at least is not reporting any spending on digital advertising which all of the other major candidates are spending heavily on.

OVERBY: Another key number in the reports is cash on hand. Four candidates reported $10 million or more. And two of them are senators - Gillibrand and Warren - who were able to transfer funds from their Senate campaign accounts. There are concerns that some Democratic campaigns are overusing their digital fundraising lists. Tim Lim is a media consultant in Washington.

TIM LIM: This insistence on getting rapid, quick returns from your digital acquisition programs will only burn out the list - the email list quicker.

OVERBY: And another larger concern is whether Democrats are so focused on the primaries that they lose sight of their actual goal. President Trump's campaign reported receipts of $30 million. That includes money raised by the Republican National Committee and two joint fundraising committees. Trump started fundraising right after he took office two years ago. Total receipts for his coordinated campaign since then are a stunning $109 million. Lim said Democrats have to think past the primaries.

LIM: How do we make sure that the nominee has the best opportunity to beat Donald Trump?

OVERBY: Trump, like most of the Democrats, has been pouring money into digital fundraising. Charlie Spies, a Republican campaign lawyer, said building a digital operation has become the defining trait of a successful campaign. Between that and the Trump RNC fundraising network, Spies said things look pretty good.

CHARLIE SPIES: The one thing we know is that President Trump is extraordinarily well-positioned going into the election.

OVERBY: And Connor Farrell, the progressive consultant, said he hopes the Democratic candidates are paying attention to this. But it's also worth noting that the winner of the money race doesn't always win the most votes. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Overby has covered Washington power, money, and influence since a foresighted NPR editor created the beat in 1994.
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