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Bernie Sanders announces strong fundraising, long primary expected

By Will Weissert
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Bernie Sanders announced Thursday  that he raised more than $34.5 million in the final three months of last year, an impressive haul underscoring that a recent heart attack hasn’t slowed the Vermont senator’s fundraising prowess with the start of the Democratic presidential primaries looming.

Sanders’ campaign said that came from more than 1.8 million donations, including from 40,000 new donors on the final day of the year alone. His total exceeds the strong $24.7 million that Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, announced a day earlier that he’d raised during last year’s fourth quarter.

“Bernie Sanders is closing the year with the most donations of any candidate in history at this point in a presidential campaign,” his campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, said in a statement.

Businessman Andrew Yang said he’d collected $16.5 million over the same period.

Strong totals from all three suggest that their party’s primary could feature a long and protracted fight at a time that some of the party’s supporters might like to see a more clear front-runner emerge. The lead-off Iowa caucuses are Feb. 3, and Sanders and Buttigieg have been among the leaders of a still crowded and unsettled field, along with former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Yang’s sizable total will allow him to continue to play spoiler far longer than many political observers originally thought.

Like Sanders, Warren has relied heavily on small donations coming primarily online. Her campaign raised $24.6 million in the third quarter but seems unlikely to match that again. In a recent fundraising email, it acknowledged collected around only $17 million with a few days to go — hoping to persuade supporters to open their wallets and improve the final totals.

All Democrats may need as much cash as they can get. President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign announced Thursday that it had raised $46 million in the fourth quarter and had a campaign war chest worth $102.7 million. How much cash those trying to unseat Trump have on hand likely won’t be clear until federal reporting deadlines later this month.

Sanders’ 2020 bid has now raised more than $96 million built on 5 million-plus individual donations worth an average of about $18. That’s a testament to the senator’s consistent campaign strength, despite facing questions when he started running about whether he could recreate his unlikely rise from virtual unknown nationally to formidable primary challenger to Hillary Clinton in 2016 — and a serious health scare that might have derailed other candidates.

Sanders’ campaign said that more than 99% of his donors have not reached federal donation limits, meaning they can contribute again. Its overall announced total does not include $12.7 million Sanders transferred from other campaign accounts as part of his presidential run.

Sanders suffered a heart attack while campaigning in Las Vegas on Oct. 1. The 78-year-old has released three letters from doctors saying that he had suffered “modest heart muscle damage” but has since recovered well and is fit enough for the rigors of the presidential campaign and the White House should he win.

Sanders’ campaign said its best fundraising month came in December, when it took in more than $18 million from 900,000-plus donations. It said that the most common occupation listed by its donors was teacher and that the five most common employers were Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, the U.S. Postal Service and Target.

In an email to supporters, Sanders  vowed that there will be more where that came from.

“Against Trump, I believe we will have 50 million individual contributions, at least. And at $27 a piece, that would be more than $1 billion,” Sanders wrote. “It’s absolutely obscene and outrageous that an election would cost that much money, but our campaign has proven we will be able to raise more than enough money to win.”

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