By John Whitesides and Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican President Donald Trump and his party jointly raised $125 million for his 2020 reelection bid in the third quarter of this year, according to the Republican National Committee.
Democratic presidential hopefuls also began revealing their fundraising hauls, including Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg who posted strong totals for the quarter.
Trump and the RNC fundraise jointly, allowing the combined operation to accept larger donations from individuals than Democrats still vying in the primary are allowed to accept.
Trump and the RNC had $156 million in cash at the end of September, a war chest that allows him to spend aggressively in the early days of the campaign to attempt to gain an advantage on the eventual Democratic nominee before the primary contest is over.
Trump is already tapping into that war chest. The RNC launched a $2 million television and digital advertising campaign over the weekend meant to respond to the impeachment inquiry of Trump that Democrats launched last week, according to a Republican source.
Sanders raised $25.3 million and Buttigieg $19.1 million, their campaigns announced earlier on Tuesday.
Senator Kamala Harris, who has watched her poll numbers drop off in the third quarter, announced she raised $11.6 million in the third quarter, a slight drop from the $11.8 million she raised the previous quarter.
Senator Cory Booker, who has languished in the low single-digits in polls, reported that he raised more than $6 million from July through September.
They were the first of the 19 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Trump in the November 2020 election to report their fundraising totals for the quarter, which ended at midnight on Monday.
Trump’s campaign has touted their fundraising haul as evidence of the machine being built to fend off Democratic opposition.
“President Trump has built a juggernaut of a campaign, raising record amounts of money at a record pace,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
Sanders, whose status in opinion polls as the No. 2 candidate for the party’s nomination behind Joe Biden has been threatened by a surge in support for fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren, hauled in more than any Democratic candidate has raised in any quarter so far.
Buttigieg, who has struggled to break into the top three spots in polls, fell short of the $24.8 million he raised in the second quarter, when he was the top fundraiser among Democratic candidates.
Fundraising numbers are closely watched to assess whether campaigns are collecting the cash needed to be competitive. They must file detailed fundraising reports for the third quarter to the Federal Election Commission by Oct. 15.
Harris, who represents California, ended September with $10 million in cash, a position her campaign argued allows her to continue to grow in the four months before the first votes are cast. Her campaign plans to double the amount of staff in the early primary state of South Carolina by the end of November.
Since launching her campaign in the winter, Harris has received donations from 850,000 different donors. In the third quarter, the average donation was $34.
Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, had said he needed to raise $1.7 million in the last 10 days of the quarter to remain viable. His campaign said it raised $2.1 million from more than 46,000 donations during that final push.
Sanders’ total came from 1.4 million individual donations and surpassed the $18 million he raised in the second quarter. Campaign officials pointed to the grassroots, small-dollar nature of his fundraising as a sign of the breadth of his support.
Sanders quickly put some of his campaign cash to work. His campaign released his first paid television advertisement of the cycle and bought $1.3 million in air time in Iowa, which kicks off the race with the first state nominating contest on Feb. 3, 2020.
Sanders has raised a total of $61.5 million since he launched his presidential bid in February.
The campaign said that Monday – the final day of the third quarter – was the Vermont senator’s second-biggest fundraising day of the campaign. The average donation was $18.07. Nearly all of Sanders’ donors have not hit their maximum allowed contribution, the campaign said, meaning they can give again.
Buttigieg has raised a total of $51 million so far this year, his campaign said in a memo to reporters. The average donation in the third quarter was $32.
The South Bend, Indiana mayor’s campaign said it hired 400 new staff and opened its first 42 field offices, including 21 in Iowa, in the third quarter.
(Reporting by John Whitesides and Ginger Gibson; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Bill Berkrot)