Follow the money.
Now that Democrats are voting for their candidate of choice in primaries and caucuses across the country, there’s no longer a few “perceived” front runners — there are real ones.
Democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) blew away the field in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, pulling in 46% of the vote. His next closest rival, former vice president Joe Biden, got just 19.6% of the vote, with former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg coming in third with 15.3%.
The also-rans didn’t fare so well. One-time front runner Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) got just 10.1% of the vote and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who has drawn rave reviews for her debate performances, came in at 4.8%. Sanders and Buttigieg also both performed well in Iowa and New Hampshire.
But the news gets worse for the other candidates still struggling to make a mark. Once the votes start coming in, the money dries up for the losers — and that includes the former vice president.
“Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren each started the month scraping perilously close to the bottom of their campaign bank accounts, posing an existential threat to their candidacies as the Democratic primary goes national,” Politico reported on Friday.
While Sanders started February with nearly $17 million in the bank, according to campaign finance disclosures filed Thursday night, his next closest rival (nonbillionaire class) was Biden, at $7.1 million. Warren was closest to the red, with just $2.3 million left in her account, while Buttigieg ($6.6 million) and Klobuchar ($2.9 million) were in between.
The candidates who are scrambling for votes face major problems in the coming few weeks. Collecting cash for campaign ads gets extremely difficult for Super Tuesday on March 3, when 14 states will hold votes to dole out nearly one-third of all the delegates available in the nomination race.
Candidates are now begging for money. “Joe Biden’s comeback starts here,” his campaign said in a message to supporters. “Our momentum is soaring after our second place finish in Nevada, and we’re getting ready for South Carolina and beyond. We’re making a list of everyone who donates to Joe tonight. Make sure you’re in on it. Chip in $20 today.”
Back in February, Biden was asking supporters for just $5.
Buttigieg, too, is pleading for cash. On Thursday, Buttigieg asked supporters to give $13 million to keep his campaign alive.
“We are now also up against a billionaire who is throwing colossal sums of money on television instead of doing the work of campaigning,” Buttigieg wrote in an email to supporters. “We need to raise a significant amount of money — about $13 million — before Super Tuesday on March 3rd in order to stay competitive.”
Buttigieg was referring to former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has spent more than $463 million in the first two months of his campaign, according to a report filed to the Federal Election Commission. In January alone, Bloomberg dumped $220 million of his own money into his campaign — an average of more than $7 million per day. Those expenditures including $126 million on TV ads and $45 million in online advertising.
And Bloomberg has a net worth estimated at $64 billion. That means he’s spent just 0.7% of his fortune so far. Unlike other candidates, he has vowed to spend his own money, so you won’t see him asking for contributions.