Parsing The Latest Presidential Campaign Finance Data
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
There are primaries, and there is the money primary. Candidates for president had to disclose their latest fundraising totals this week, and several anti-establishment candidates raised the kind of money that established party candidates could envy. We're joined now by NPR's Peter Overby. He covers campaign finance. Thanks for being with us.
PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Good to be here.
SIMON: And NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro, thanks very much for being with us.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Thank you for having me.
SIMON: Who has bragging rights with these latest numbers?
OVERBY: On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both have something to brag about, the anti-establishment and the establishment. Sanders, with his legions of small donors, almost matched Hillary Clinton's fundraising for the quarter. Seventy-seven percent of Bernie Sanders' money came from people who gave $200 or less. They're also almost tied in cash on hand. Another candidate that has bragging rights, Ben Carson, the Republican, raised $21 million, which was about twice as much as he raised the previous quarter. You know, he's got this vast array of small donors. He raised $21 million, but he also spent $14 million, which is a pretty high overhead for a campaign.
SIMON: How did the army of Bernie Sanders donors react following that second debate, even during that second debate, when Hillary Clinton was perceived to have done so well?
MONTANARO: Well, when you have three-quarters of your donors giving you $200 or less, that's a lot of people who can give you a lot of money. And they were doing that during the debate. They did that after the debate. Even though Hillary Clinton got a lot of high marks out of that debate, Bernie Sanders' campaign touted immediately that he'd raised some $1.4 million from the start at 11 o'clock until about 3 a.m. Eastern time. The money kept coming in. According to the campaign, they received at least 44,000 individual donations with the average contribution of, get this, $31.54. Yep, they had it down to the penny.
SIMON: Jeb Bush, according to these figures, raised more than $13 million.
OVERBY: This is true.
SIMON: That's a lot of money. But is there some disappointment over that figure?
OVERBY: Context is everything. In the second quarter, he raised 11.4. Now, he's up to a little over 13. So he did better than the previous quarter. However, in the previous quarter, he was only a candidate for the last two weeks. When he announced, they raised more than $11 million in two weeks. It took him three months to get to $13 million.
SIMON: Donald Trump, let me ask about him. He's funding his own campaign very notably - says he is. But I gather that he got almost $4 million. How do we assess that? He's not, to my knowledge, asking for it. On the other hand, I doubt he has any plans to give it back.
MONTANARO: Well, it's pretty funny because he's actually said, you know, I don't need money, right? I'm a rich guy. He said, you know, but if the woman gives me the $7 - he said the $7 - you know, I'm not going to give it back. She gives me the money. So it's almost, like, a bag of 4 million bucks just sort of dropped on your doorstep. But he's not really doing a whole lot of the traditional, usual campaign things that you would do. He said that he would fund his own campaign. He's not really doing that to a great extent. He only gave himself $100,000 this quarter. He's given himself about $3 million overall. He's getting a lot of earned media. In other words, he's going on TV and a lot of attention from people who want Donald Trump as part of their debates or pick up what he's saying on the campaign trail. But he's not putting that money into a lot of field organizing. He's not putting that money into the traditional things that normally win. Of course, he's not a traditional candidate. No one expected him to be leading in the polls for some three months, as he is at this point, and that's going to be tested.
SIMON: When you say tested, of course, when people actually begin to vote.
MONTANARO: That's absolutely true. I mean, February 1 in Iowa, that's when the first votes are going to happen, and, you know, whether or not people can turn out to vote based on crowd size. You know, crowds - lots of other candidates have gotten big crowds in the past. Think about Howard Dean, Jesse Jackson even on the Democratic side in the 1980s. But turning those crowds into votes is something that takes mechanics, takes money, takes organization.
OVERBY: Takes people to call the prospective voter, maybe go pick them up and drive them to the polls.
SIMON: Unless, of course, as you say, things have changed.
MONTANARO: Yeah, I mean, we could be at one of those inflection point elections. We'll find out once voters start to caucus in Iowa in February.
SIMON: NPR's Peter Overby and Domenico Montanaro, thanks very much.
MONTANARO: Thank you.
OVERBY: Thank you.
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