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Lower-tier 2020 candidates have highest share of small-dollar donations

Various lower-tier candidates are leading the 2020 race in one way: they've raised most of their money from small-dollar donors.

Why it matters: Fundraising as a whole can be a proxy for voter enthusiasm. But especially small donations, which Democrats have been fighting to get from regular people who want to give their money to campaigns — and mostly online.

Data: FEC; Note: Includes candidates whose authorized committees raised at least $2 million in individual donations in Q2 2019; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios
  • Some Democratic campaigns privately say that their small-dollar donations suggest they've attracted lower-income and minority voters. Others say it shows their strength with the grassroots wing of the party.

Between the lines: It makes sense that Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have raised more than 65% of their money from small contributions — they've both sworn off high-dollar fundraisers.

  • Andrew Yang's popularity online could explain how he's raised a majority of his money from nominal donations.
  • Julián Castro's campaign often emails supporters asking for just $15, and has even sent some "humbly asking you to pitch in $1 or more."

The big picture: ActBlue, the Democratic online fundraising platform, says it has raised $420 million so far in 2019.

  • Grassroots donors gave $246 million in Q2 alone
  • 3.3 million unique donors have contributed to nearly 9,000 Democratic campaigns and organizations this cycle overall
  • Compared to the same point in the 2018 cycle: donors had given $249 million, and 4.9 million people made contributions through ActBlue throughout the entire 2018 cycle.

The bottom line: Keep an eye on these small-dollar Democratic donations, especially online — that's what helped them break fundraising records in the 2018 midterms.

Go deeper: Axios' 2020 fundraising tracker for every candidate for federal office