Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts raised $19.1 million for her 2020 presidential campaign in the last three months, more than tripling the amount she raised in the first quarter of 2019 — a strong showing of her ability to turn her campaign’s gathering momentum into more robust fundraising even as she forswears high-dollar donors.
Warren was the last of the top 2020 Democratic hopefuls to reveal her fundraising total. She brought in less than the amount raised by Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Ind., mayor who looks to be the top fundraiser in the field with $24.8 million collected in the last three months, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who raised $21.5 million in a little less than three months.
But Warren outraised two other key rivals for the Democratic nomination: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who raised $18 million and is competing with her for support from the party’s left wing; and Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who raised $12 million and, like Warren, has been gaining momentum since the first Democratic candidate debates.
Warren’s report on the second quarter, which ended June 30, was keenly anticipated as a sign of whether her decision to forswear high-dollar fundraisers would make her financially noncompetitive. Only Sanders has made a similar pledge. For both candidates, the policy was in keeping with their central campaign message that monied special interests and the wealthy have too much power in the U.S. economic and political system.
“You are making it possible to build a presidential campaign without catering to wealthy donors,” Roger Lau, Warren’s campaign manager, said in an email to supporters announcing the new fundraising totals.
Warren announced in February that she would not hold fundraisers, dinners or other special events for wealthy donors. That was a controversial decision because it cut her off from some of the more efficient ways of raising money in large chunks.
Her finance director at the time, Michael Pratt, quit the campaign in part because of the decision. Her first-quarter fundraising — just $6 million — was lackluster and far below the sums raised by her competitors, including Sanders, who raised $18 million in the first three months.
Biden and Buttigieg have not sworn off high-dollar fundraisers, and that has helped them top the field in fundraising. The Biden campaign, in announcing his total, noted that it had raised its money on a shorter timeline: He did not get into the race until three weeks into the quarter.
But Warren’s smaller haul came from more donors: Her campaign said the $19.1 million came from 384,000 people. Buttigieg’s came from 294,000 donors; Biden’s, from 256,000. Harris said she had more than 279,000 donors.
The fundraising reports are an important milestone in a long journey to the party’s nomination. One advantage to collecting money in smaller increments rather than in chunks of $2,800, the maximum allowed from an individual, is that small donors can give more than once and so are a renewable resource in a long campaign.
Warren’s campaign said that her average donation size was $28, compared with the $49 average donation collected by Biden, $47.42 by Buttigieg and $39 by Harris. Only the Sanders campaign reported a smaller average donation than Warren’s — $18.
Harris has recently emerged as a stronger rival to Warren, matching and in some cases surpassing her in polls, as the two male front-runners — Biden and Sanders — have seen their polling leads narrow.
Harris has been buoyed by her performance in the first round of debates, when she pointedly confronted Biden about his record on school busing and other racial issues. That catapulted her to new notoriety and led to an infusion of $2 million in online donations the day after the debate, her campaign said.
Still, her contributions for the full quarter ended up being slightly less than the $12 million she collected in the first quarter, when she made a splashy entrance as one of the first candidates in the field.