Democratic hopeful Beto O’Rourke raised an unprecedented $6.1m during the first 24 hours of his official run for the White House, his campaign announced on Monday.
The stunning sum is more than rival Bernie Sanders and every other 2020 Democratic rival who has disclosed their first-day fundraising totals. O’Rourke brought in $6,136,763 in online donations from all 50 states and territories, his campaign said. It did not disclose the number of donors who contributed or the average size of the contributions.
“In just 24 hours, Americans across this country came together to prove that it is possible to run a true grassroots campaign for president – a campaign by all of us, for all of us, that answers not to the Pacs, corporations and special interests but to the people,” O’Rourke said in a statement.
The former Texas congressman, like Sanders and some of his other colleagues, has shunned Pac donations of any kind. He did not rule out holding fundraisers.
At this stage in the primary contest, when polling typically reflects name recognition, early fundraising figures are an early test of a candidate’s strength and depth of support. For O’Rourke, the initial numbers are an indication of whether he can hold onto the support that powered his unexpectedly strong Senate challenge against incumbent Republican senator Ted Cruz last year.
The first-day haul also reflects O’Rourke’s remarkable rise from little-known congressman from the border town of El Paso to a national Democratic star after narrowly losing his Senate bid. During his 2018 Senate campaign, O’Rourke shattered financial records, raising a historic $38m in just one quarter. Average donations were about $47.
O’Rourke formally entered the crowded Democratic primary last week with an online video and a trip to Iowa after a months-long deliberation that included a five-state road trip across the American south-west, which he journaled in “Dear diary”– style posts on Medium. His rhetorical style and charismatic message has drawn comparisons to Barack Obama, but he has met resistance among some progressive activists who are critical of his ambiguity on policy.
Small-dollar donations are increasingly important to Democratic candidates as the party escalates its battle against big money in politics. For the first time, the Democratic National Committee has established a grassroots fundraising threshold to participate in the party’s televised primary debates.
Despite hinting on the campaign trail this weekend that he may not want to release his totals, O’Rourke’s $6.1m haul sets him apart in a sprawling field that has swelled to 16 Democrats.
Sanders entered the race with the largest donor list of any candidate running – one that he developed while running for president in 2016. Even so, he stunned political observers last month when he announced that his campaign had raised $5.9m in his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate.
California senator Kamala Harris raised more than the $1.5m in the first 24 hours of her campaign. Before Sanders entered the race, Harris claimed the biggest first-day fundraising total, which matched what the Vermont senator raised in April 2015 after he launched his bid for the nomination that year.
Lesser-known candidates such as Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar and former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, each reported earning $1m in the first 48 hours of their campaigns, while Washington governor Jay Inslee said his campaign had raised more than $1m three days after he entered the race.