As Nomination Races Tighten, Some Hopefuls’ Cash Reserves Dwindling

(The Washington Post) —

The bare-knuckle brawl for the Republican presidential nomination sapped the cash reserves of some of the candidates, helping winnow the field as the race hurtles toward the expensive Super Tuesday contests.

New campaign finance reports show that former Florida governor Jeb Bush had limited funds left before he ended his campaign Saturday night. He raised just under $1.6 million in January and had $2.9 million in the bank at the end of the month.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, meanwhile, began February with just under $1.5 million in the bank after raising a little over $1 million last month.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was the money leader among the Republicans, raising nearly $7.6 million in January. He began the month with $13.6 million in the bank, a healthy cash reserve.

On the Democratic side, new filings show that Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont) are engaged in a costly primary battle, with Sanders racing through nearly $35 million while Clinton spent $21.2 million last month.

For the first time, she was outraised by Sanders, bringing in $15.6 million to his $21.2 million in January.

Meanwhile, total spending by super PACs and other independent groups on broadcast ads and mailers targeting the presidential contest topped $215 million Saturday amid a torrent of last-minute attacks, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

The bulk of the spending has been on the Republican side, as well-funded super PACs allied with the candidates engaged in multi-front battles in the run-up to the South Carolina primary.

Bush enjoyed the greatest amount of air cover. After amassing a record $118 million in 2015, the pro-Bush Right to Rise super PAC had spent at least $95.7 million supporting him through Friday.

But as Bush failed to gain traction, the group suffered a huge drop-off in donations. It collected just $370,000 last month. Richard DeVos, a Michigan businessman, donated the majority of it: $250,000. He gave the same amount to a super PAC allied with Marco Rubio.

Right to Rise began February with $24.4 million in the bank and had kept up a flood of ads on Bush’s behalf in recent days. The group plowed $1.9 million into South Carolina and Nevada in the past week alone, including direct mailers and phone calls hitting front-runner Donald Trump, Rubio and Kasich.

Rubio has been the beneficiary of the second-largest amount of super PAC spending in the GOP race. His allied group, Conservative Solutions PAC, has poured more than $30 million into ads touting him and attacking rivals.

In January, the group raised just under $2.5 million. The bulk came from Oracle’s executive chairman, Larry Ellison, who gave $1 million.

Small-dollar-givers continued to drive the fundraising of several of the GOP candidates. Cruz raised $3.2 million from contributors who gave $200 or less — 42 percent of his entire haul in January.

And retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson showed that he still had a loyal base of small donors supporting his bid. They contributed $1.6 million to his campaign in January, helping Carson raise $3.8 million in all. He began this month with $4 million in the bank.

For his part, Trump reported raising $5.9 million, most of which he provided. He lent his campaign $4.9 million and contributed an additional $31,000. In all, he has loaned his bid $17.5 million. He reported just about $973,000 in donations from supporters.

Rubio raised $4.9 million and spent twice that in January. He began the month with $5 million in the bank.

The Democratic candidates continued to greatly outpace Republicans in scooping up money from low-dollar contributors.

Sanders’s campaign announced Saturday that it has received more than 4 million contributions to date, a historic number. More than 1.5 million individual supporters have contributed to the senator from Vermont, a vast donor base that is helping him close the gap with Clinton’s fundraising.

“This campaign is built for the long haul and is drawing millions of new people into the process,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement.

For her part, Clinton is broadening her donor pool. She now has more than 750,000 individual contributors, her campaign said. Donors who gave $200 or less drove $4.2 million into her campaign in January, more than one-quarter of her total raise that month.

“We’re grateful to the thousands of new grass-roots donors flooding into this campaign every day,” campaign manager Robby Mook said in a statement.

Of the $15.6 million that Clinton raised, $2.4 million was collected through the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee with the DNC and 32 state parties.

She is also being flanked by a well-funded super PAC, Priorities USA Action, which made its first significant foray into the primary contest this month. The group collected $9.6 million in January, including $3.5 million from hedge-fund billionaire James Simons.

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