Despite coming in second in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is still putting up monster fundraising numbers.
Sanders’s campaign announced they’ve raised $46.5 million in February, the largest monthly sum any Democratic candidate has raised so far this cycle. It will ensure Sanders stays competitive as the campaign shifts from the early states to a national primary — a change that calls for substantial money to reach voters in multiple states with ads.
In addition to the ads the Sanders campaign is already running in Super Tuesday states, the money will help fuel a large Sanders ad buy in states beyond next Tuesday’s contests: The campaign has announced ad buys in five states voting on March 10, as well as four large states voting March 17: Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio.
Fueled by an army of grassroots supporters, Sanders has consistently been the top fundraiser of the 2020 cycle, but he’s not the only competitive candidate. The campaign of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) raised $29 million in February after her rousing debate performance in Nevada. And after decisively winning the South Carolina primary on Saturday night, former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign announced it raised $5 million in a single day.
But despite this impressive fundraising, Sanders has a monetary advantage that other candidates seem unable to match. As the New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher tweeted, Sanders’s haul in the first two months of 2020 dwarfed Biden’s fundraising in the previous year.
Another way to look at this: Bernie Sanders raised more in January and February 2020 than Joe Biden raised in all of 2019, plus January 2020 https://t.co/ie295NJccI— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) March 1, 2020
Being flush with campaign cash is critical during this stretch of the primary; it’s the moment the Democratic primary will shift from revolving around the small, retail-style politics of the early states to a so-called “tarmac campaign” where candidates are flying to multiple states to do big rallies, and must rely on ads to get their messages to voters.
This is the phase of the campaign where winning enough races to get delegates is the main thing that matters. Reaching voters takes money, and a number of the most important Super Tuesday states, like California and Texas, have very large and expensive media markets.
“It’s a virtual national primary because there are so many states,” longtime California Democratic consultant Bill Carrick told Vox in a recent interview. “The math itself changes, and every network has some sort of chart showing the projected delegate count.”
Sanders and billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have a definite cash advantage going into Super Tuesday, thanks to Sanders’s seemingly unstoppable grassroots fundraising and Bloomberg’s vast cash reserves. How that advantage translates into vote totals and delegate math remains to be seen, but both candidates have seen strong national polling in recent weeks as Sanders picked up victories in early states and Bloomberg’s advertising spending topped $500 million.
And the strong fundraising hauls from other candidates are a reminder the race is not over yet — Biden and Warren (and other candidates like former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg) are signaling they’re competitive enough to stay in the race longer.