DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Billionaire Michael Bloomberg spent roughly $180 million in the month after his late entry into the Democratic presidential primary, a staggering sum that’s drastically more than all other leading contenders spent during much of the past year combined.
Since his late entry into the race in November, the former New York City mayor has drawn withering criticism from rivals who accuse him of using his massive fortune, estimated to be $60 billion, in an attempt to buy the party’s nomination. The spending, detailed in a campaign finance report that all candidates must submit to the Federal Election Commission on Friday, has enabled Bloomberg to dominate TV advertising and become a credible contender, even though he hasn’t appeared in a debate and is not competing in many early voting states.
On Sunday, he will go head-to-head with President Donald Trump in dueling ads that air during the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the other leading candidates have been drawing down their cash reserves in a final push before the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses on Monday.
Money may not be an obstacle for Bloomberg. But the cash-on-hand sums reported by former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar will offer a key indication of the health of their campaigns.
A poor performance during the caucuses on Monday combined with an anemic bank account balance could be a death knell for their campaign, or at least make it difficult to persuade donors to give more money.
â€œFor the guys and gals who have spent substantial resources getting to this stage in Iowa, if they donâ€™t meet expectations, they are going to be in a position where they have to live off the land in the coming weeks, which is not a fun place to be,â€ said Danny Diaz, a Republican consultant who was a senior adviser for Mitt Romney’s 2012 White House bid and the manager of Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Those who rely on traditional donors to fund their campaigns will likely face additional headwinds because many of their most ardent supporters have already given the $2,800 maximum. The two leading progressives in the race, Warren and Sanders, on the other hand, have relied on an army of small-dollar grassroots donors chipping in small amounts – a source of campaign cash that doesn’t easily max out.
â€œIf one underperforms (in Iowa) and you’re strapped for cash, you’re probably going to crash and burn,â€ said David Brock, a major Democratic fundraiser who leads two outside groups that are targeting Trump in the general election. â€œIt may be that we see even further winnowing of the field soon.â€
In October, Biden reported that he had just $9 million on hand at the end of September, which was far less than Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg. On Friday, his campaign announced in a memo to supporters that January was their strongest fundraising month since the launch of his campaign. But campaign manager Greg Schultz also downplayed the importance of being a leading fundraiser.
“Elections ultimately are not about money, theyâ€™re about having the right message and vision for the country. But you have to have the resources to compete, which we unequivocally do,” Schultz wrote.
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