Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Joe Biden in Fla., Pete Buttigieg in N.Y., Bernie Sanders in Ore.: Who’s winning the big-money race in each state

To get a sense of how that money is distributed, The Inquirer broke down large-dollar donations by state to get a sense of regional strength and, in some cases, geographic fund-raising strategy.

This map shows the top recipient of large-dollar donations in each state.
This map shows the top recipient of large-dollar donations in each state.Read moreJonathan Lai

Americans have poured more than $413.6 million into 2020 presidential campaigns.

But where do all those donors live?

To get a sense of how that money is distributed, The Inquirer broke down large-dollar donations — those greater than $200 — by state. The analysis reveals regional strength and, in some cases, geographic fund-raising strategy:

  1. Former Vice President Joe Biden, an establishment front-runner whose fund-raising has begun to lag, leads the large-dollar race in 13 states, especially in the Southeast.

  2. Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose powerful small-dollar network of donors has generated big money, is the top recipient in many states and has particular support in the West.

  3. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised more large-dollar money than any other candidate nationwide in the third quarter, but a lot of that was concentrated in Midwestern states as well as New York.

  4. The other top-tier candidate, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is the top large-dollar fund-raiser only in her home state of Massachusetts, but she’s a common second and third choice of donors in many other states.

How we analyzed by state

Campaigns are only required to report details, including addresses, of donations from people who have given more than $200. This analysis looks only at those large-dollar donors, including people who gave one-time donations of more than $200 as well as donors who have given multiple times to reach that threshold.

It is by nature an incomplete picture, because candidates rely on large-dollar donations to varying degrees; in addition, some donations cannot be matched to a state because the donor lives overseas. A more comprehensive picture will be available in January, when ActBlue, the Democratic online donation processor, releases information about small-dollar donations.

Home state advantage is real

Most candidates were the top fund-raiser in their home state. Several were the favored recipient of big-dollar donations in only their state:

  1. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

  2. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado (dropped out).

  3. U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

  4. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

  5. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

  6. Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana.

  7. U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio (dropped out).

  8. Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas.

  9. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington (dropped out).

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker was the biggest fund-raiser in his home state of New Jersey and in Wyoming.

The candidates who were fund-raising also-rans on their home turf included Andrew Yang of New York, where Buttigieg raised the most; former HUD Secretary Julian Castro of Texas, where O’Rourke got the largest share; and Marianne Williamson, whose home state of California gave more money to Harris than any other. When President Donald Trump is included, he loses his home state of New York to Buttigieg.

Yet money follows the polls. Three of the four top-polling candidates are the top fund-raiser in 39 of 50 states.

The three most common big-dollar recipients have very different fund-raising strategies

Sanders, whose grassroots following has netted him the most individual donors — big or small — of any presidential candidate, also leads when only “large dollar” donors are counted. He’s the large-donor leader in 15 states, which is especially remarkable since he does not hold fund-raisers or court large donors.

In fact, many of his “large-dollar” donors were initially small-dollar donors who signed up to give on a regular basis, eventually passing the $200 threshold to be counted as big money. Sanders is the top donation-getter in a large swath of the West.

Biden, conversely, relies more on one-time large-dollar donations, often solicited through fund-raisers in key states where he also is campaigning. Biden does particularly well in southern states, including Florida, and in Pennsylvania and Nevada, an early voting state.

Buttigieg uses both strategies, and the result has been a huge fund-raising influx that gave him the biggest third-quarter haul of any candidate. Buttigieg raised more money in the last quarter than Trump, who has the benefit of coordinating with the Republican National Committee as the presumptive nominee. Buttigieg is the top fund-raiser in 12 states, including some big Democratic states like New York and several states in the Midwest.

Warren — who, like Sanders, has sworn off fund-raisers — only wins her home state of Massachusetts in terms of most money coming in, but she is the second- or third-highest big-dollar recipient in many other states. That reflects public opinion polling of Warren as well. She polls in first or second place but leads most polls when voters are asked to list their second-choice candidate.

Individual Democrats manage to outraise Trump in 26 states, despite their current disadvantage

At this point in the race, Democratic donors are spreading their money among multiple candidates while Republican donors can line up behind the president, so it’s no surprise that Trump raises more than individual Democrats in many states.

Trump also has the benefit of relying on the Republican Party, and he and the RNC together have raised a combined $125 million in the last quarter, bringing their 2019 haul to more than $300 million. That’s more than double what Barack Obama and the Democrats had raised in 2011 toward his reelection. (Although a lot of the money currently given to the Democratic Party will benefit the eventual nominee, that money isn’t being used right now to support a specific candidate the way RNC money can help Trump.)

Where the donors come from

The following maps show state-level maps of the number of large-dollar donors who have given to the top-tier candidates — Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Sanders, and Warren — and to Booker.

In the maps, the number of donors in each state is divided by the number of votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016, a way of accounting for differences in population and the number of Democrats across states. The darker a state is shaded, the more donors a candidate has in that state relative to the number of Clinton votes.

For example, a candidate with the same number of donors in both California and Wyoming will have Wyoming shaded much darker because the state had a lot fewer votes for Clinton than California did.

Some states, especially California and New York, are dark across multiple maps because they have large numbers of donors to multiple candidates, even relative to their number of Clinton votes.