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Sanders Passes 2 Million Donations, Nabs Two Endorsements

Bernie Sanders supporters walk to the Iowa Events Center before the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in October in Des Moines.
Scott Olson
Getty Images
Bernie Sanders supporters walk to the Iowa Events Center before the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in October in Des Moines.

With voting in the first presidential nominating contests just weeks away, Bernie Sanders is trying to make a push before the end of the year.

His campaign announced that he has surpassed 2 million donations. The only other person to do that at this point in a presidential campaign was Barack Obama in 2011. (Clinton had 600,000 donations from 400,000 donors through the end of the third quarter — end of September.)

Sanders has been raising the bulk of his money in small donations — 71 percent of his donations were $200 or less in the third quarter. Clinton, on the other hand, has relied on larger donors — 74 percent of contributions to her campaign were $1,000 or more, according to numbers from the Campaign Finance Institute.

The reliance on small donations is certainly on message for Sanders, who has consistently blasted America's campaign finance system as being "corrupt."

"What our vision of a political revolution has already accomplished is to show that we can run a strong and we believe winning campaign without a super PAC, without contributions from millionaires and billionaires," Sanders said in a message to supporters.

The obvious downside is that small donations are harder to add up to big numbers. By the end of the third quarter, Clinton's campaign had raised more than double Sanders' campaign overall.

Sanders also got two endorsements Thursday — one from the Communications Workers of America, a major union with 700,000 members, the other from the progressive group Democracy For America, which is chaired by Jim Dean, Howard's brother. (Howard Dean has endorsed Clinton.) DFA endorsed after nearly 90 percent of its members said they backed Bernie.

That's in addition to a CNN/WMUR poll that showed Sanders leading in New Hampshire by 10 points — 50 percent to 40 percent over Clinton.

Clinton continues to hold large leads in national polls — but national polling won't determine the way forward in the campaign's immediate future. It's the early states that matter, and right now the two early contests — Iowa and New Hampshire — are a split decision.

Things can change on a dime, as voters learned in 2008. Obama led Clinton by high single digits in every poll after his big win in Iowa, but Clinton wound up winning in a surprise. And her husband, Bill, was dubbed the "Comeback Kid" there.

After Iowa, the contest moves on to New Hampshire, but it won't end there. The Clinton campaign sees a firewall in the South, where black voters are key. The Clintons have deep ties to the black community and Sanders is less known. But he's working on that and hopes a win in New Hampshire can be a springboard.

A lot will shake out between Clinton and Sanders in the next few weeks, and the bigger key will be how the two camps come together. For all the talk of Donald Trump and his strength on the right, it's clear there's a very deep cadre of grass-roots support on the Democratic side, too.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: December 10, 2015 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the only other person to raise $2 million at this point in a presidential campaign was Barack Obama in 2007. In fact it was Obama in 2011.
Domenico Montanaro
Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.