WASHINGTON – The crowded field of Democratic candidates vying to take on President Donald Trump reported raising more than $100 million over the past three months – buoyed by the debate, small donors and, at times, the president himself.
Nearly two dozen candidates – most of the Democrats running – filed campaign finance reports late Monday night disclosing donors in the second quarter of 2019.
Money doesn't determine who will win the nomination – Trump's fundraising was eclipsed at this point in 2015 – but it is important. Candidates have to show they can deliver their message to voters. That usually means expensive advertising. They also must document tens of thousands of donors to get on future debate stages.
Here are five takeaways from the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission:
Post debate bump?
Millions of Americans tuned in to the Democratic debates last month to get a look at the candidates for president, including some who are largely unknown on the national stage. Did voters respond to what they saw by opening their wallets? It's debatable.
The latest campaign finance reports show that some candidates, including Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, appeared to get a major boost in fundraising. For others, it's far less clear because of the way campaigns report their numbers.
Harris, who confronted former Vice President Joe Biden over previous statements about busing and race, raised nearly $700,000 in donations over $200 on the day after the debate, according to a USA TODAY analysis.
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Warren raised more than double her daily average in the 48 hours after the debate compared with the rest of the quarter. Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro said his campaign raised $1.1 million after the debate, almost as much as the $1.7 million he raised in the weeks leading up to it.
The numbers offer only a glimpse of the haul. Campaigns only itemize donations over $200, and other candidates may have received a bump from smaller checks. Because of that, there is no way to verify some of the claims made by campaigns.
The bottom line
As expected, Pete Buttigieg beat the field.
The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who is making his first run for federal office, raked in nearly $25 million, besting better known candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders, Warren and Harris. Roughly half of Buttigieg's fundraising came from donors giving less than $200.
Biden was the next best candidate, raising just over $22 million in the quarter.
But there are important caveats to Buttigieg's numbers. For starters, Biden wasn't raising money during the whole second quarter – he entered the race in late April. Broken down by average donation amount per day, Biden crushed Buttigieg, and everyone else. Biden raised nearly $329,000 per day, according to a USA TODAY analysis.
Buttigieg also raised less from small donors, meaning candidates like Sanders and Warren may have a more sustainable cadre of donors to return to throughout the long campaign.
Trump raking it in
While the early fight for the Democratic nomination has consumed the nation's attention, Trump's campaign has been building up staff and pulling in cash. The latest reports show that effort continued at a record pace for a sitting president in the second quarter.
Trump's campaign and two closely affiliated political action committees together raised $57 million, the campaign said, which doesn't include money heading directly into the coffers of the Republican National Committee.
In terms of sheer income, Trump raised more than every other Democrat. But Trump is largely alone in the GOP field (Republican challenger Bill Weld raised less than $1 million). Democrats, on the other hand, are splitting the party's donors between some 20-plus candidates. And so the balance may change as the Democratic field is winnowed.
Rich and famous
Democrats are heavily focused on small-dollar donors, but that doesn't mean they've sworn off checks from Hollywood.
Warren took in $2,800 from Jane Fonda and another $2,800 from actress Scarlett Johansson, FEC reports showed. Musician Jackson Browne gave roughly $1,300 to Sanders. Actor Jeff Bridges gave more than $2,000 to Democrat Marianne Williamson.
Bradley Whitford, who played Josh Lyman on the long-running television show The West Wing, gave Castro $300.
Not every candidate was basking in strong numbers. Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who built a powerful fundraising operation in his race for Senate last year, reported $3.6 million in the second quarter compared with more than $9 million earlier this year.
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar raised just under $4 million, which was also less than her haul in the first quarter. She also spent more money than she raised, shelling out $4.1 million on campaign expenses. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand raised $2.3 million but wound up spending more than $4 million over the same period.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump's Democratic challengers raise more than $100 million