CT activists are giving early to White House hopefuls
Washington – President Donald Trump raised more than $35 million for his re-election bid this year, but only $86,281 came from Connecticut donors.
On the Democratic side, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rouke raised the most campaign cash from Connecticut residents in the first quarter of this year — nearly $88,000.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was among the candidates who raised the least amount of money in the state, about $35,000.
Those are some of the findings of a CT Mirror analysis of Federal Election Commission data on presidential campaign fundraising.
The political money chase will heat up this summer and become more aggressive when the first presidential primaries take place this winter.
But it’s not too early for candidates to start worrying about raising money, especially since there is a large Democratic field and the ability to raise campaign cash –considered a sign of strength and “electability” – could raise one above the fray.
While Trump has not raised a lot of campaign cash in Connecticut this year, he has been accumulating money for his re-election since he assumed office in early 2017.
Trump has raised about $97 million in this cycle, which includes $35 million in the first quarter of the year alone, forcing his Democratic rivals to play catchup.
Trump’s base continued to strongly support his campaign this year. Almost 99 percent of its donations were in amounts of $200 or less, with an average donation less than $35.
But Trump’s re-election effort is also attracting big money donors, including some from Connecticut, who are contributing to political action committees and other organizations that support giving the president a second term.
A splintering of Democratic donors
While little of that money came from Connecticut, Sanders — who like Trump is adept at attracting a lot of small donations — was the Democratic candidate who raised the most money nationwide as of March 31, about $20 million.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren followed, having raised about $16.5 million for her campaign, but less than $15,000 of that amount came from Connecticut donors.
Sen. Kamala Harris raised about $13 million, $79,000 from Connecticut donors, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., raised about $12.6 million, nearly $53,000 from residents in the state.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading most polls both nationally and in early primary states, did not fundraise in the first quarter of this year.
Biden’s decision to sit out the first quarter was a risk — if other candidates’ fundraising efforts caught fire they could have built up a formidable cash advantage that would make it quite difficult for the former vice president to catch up. But it seems probable that Biden will outpace his Democratic rivals.
The large field of Democratic presidential candidates, however, is “splintering” party activists who are likely to donate money to a campaign, said Gary Rose, head of the political science department at Sacred Heart University.
“We really don’t have a defined (Democratic) candidate,” Rose said. “Donors are basing their support on one issue, or two issues, or maybe the personality of a candidate.”
Rose also said he was not surprised O’Rourke raised the most money in the state.
“There are a lot of young Democrats in Connecticut and O’Rourke is cutting into Sanders’s youthful support,” Rose said.
Quinnipiac University law professor Charles Pillsbury has not donated to O’Rouke’s campaign, but he has given money to the campaigns of several other Democratic candidates, including Biden, Warren, Sanders and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Pillsbury has also donated to the campaign of Sen. Amy Klobuchar — twice– because he, like the senator, is from Minnesota.
“I don’t think I’m smart enough to decide who the next Democratic nominee for president is going to be,” Pillsbury said. “So, I’m supporting those people who, if elected, would be a good president.”
Klobuchar’s campaign raised a total of about $8.8 million in the first quarter of the year, $21,730 in Connecticut. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., raised more than $7.9 million, about $18,000 in Connecticut.
Buttigieg, who was largely unknown on the national political stage before he decided to run for the White House, raised a little more than $7 million, about $28,000 in Connecticut.
The other Democratic presidential candidates raised less than $5 million in the first quarter or did not enter the race and, like Biden, did not raise any political money at all in the first quarter of the year.
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