Sanders pulls into the lead among Michigan Dem donors

Sen. Bernie Sanders at an Oct. 27 rally in Detroit | Andrew Roth

WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders was No. 1 among the Democratic presidential hopefuls when it came to raising cash from Michigan donors last year. 

The Vermont U.S. senator raised about $821,000 from Michiganders in 2019, according to the latest campaign finance reports, leading his rivals and reflecting his status as the top national fundraiser among the Democratic candidates in 2019. 

Trailing Sanders in the Michigan cash race last year: former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg ($720,000); Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren ($470,000); former Vice President Joe Biden ($405,000) and Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar ($127,000).

Sanders surged in Michigan fundraising in the fourth quarter of last year, the reports show, when he raised about $371,000. As of the end of August, Buttigieg had raised more from Michigan donors than Sanders, although Sanders did slightly outraise the former South Bend mayor in the third quarter of 2019. 

Sanders outraised Buttigieg in Michigan last quarter, but Ind. mayor holds slight overall lead

Warren and Biden both saw their Michigan donations drop from the third to the fourth quarter of 2019, while Klobuchar’s donations increased during that time. 

The donations aren’t indicative of votes, but they do offer one metric to gauge enthusiasm for candidates heading into this year’s primaries. 

The Michigan primary will be held on March 10, a week after the Super Tuesday contest. The state is seen as a critical battleground in the 2020 race and could be influential in the primary if there isn’t an obvious frontrunner after Super Tuesday. 

Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke at the first Democratic debate in Detroit | Andrew Roth

Nationally, Sanders dominated his Democratic rivals in fundraising in 2019. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and billionaire Tom Steyer reported more than Sanders in total receipts, but those wealthy candidates are largely self-funding their campaigns. 

The end-of-year 2019 fundraising reports don’t include donations from early this year, when the Democratic contests in Iowa and New Hampshire marked the formal kickoff of the 2020 election season. Recent polling has shown Sanders gaining steam among Michigan Democrats as Biden has faltered. 

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President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has raised more than any individual Democratic candidate nationwide, although Democratic donors are expected to ultimately pour cash into the coffers of the eventual nominee. 

Trump raised about $2 million from Michigan donors in 2019, the records show. The state voted for Trump in 2016 and the president is a frequent visitor. He held a rally in Battle Creek in December, the same night he was impeached by the U.S. House. 

The fundraising data includes itemized contributions — all of those that exceed $200, and some smaller donations.