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Democratic presidential candidates raised $3.8 million in Florida. Guess who raised half that.

Biden raked in $2.09 million from donors with Florida addresses during the latest fundraising quarter,
Democratic presidential candidates attend the start of the first primary debate for the 2020 elections at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. [AL DIAZ |MIAMI HERALD]
Democratic presidential candidates attend the start of the first primary debate for the 2020 elections at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. [AL DIAZ |MIAMI HERALD]
Published Jul. 17, 2019
Updated Jul. 17, 2019

Joe Biden didn’t win the first presidential debate in Florida but he did crush the 2020 Democratic field in one crucial campaign metric — Florida fundraising.

Biden raked in $2.09 million from donors with Florida addresses during the latest fundraising quarter, according to a Miami Herald analysis of federal campaign records. His haul represents 53 percent of the $3.8 million raised by 20 high-profile Democratic candidates around the state of Florida in April, May and June.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was a distant second with over $748,000 raised in Florida, though he raised over $500,000 more than Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who came in third with just over $210,000 raised.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock — who didn’t qualify for last month’s debates in Miami after entering the race in May because he didn’t meet polling or fundraising thresholds set by the Democratic Party — California Sen. Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren all raised more than $100,000 from Floridians in April, May and June.

“Florida is one of the great ATMs of American politics in that both parties can reliably look to Florida to help finance a lot of their campaign for any office, not just the presidency,” said Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based pollster and Democratic strategist. “What you see in the Democratic primary numbers is Vice President Biden enjoys the donor support that comes from private event fundraising and I think Pete Buttigieg is tapping into that network.”

The Miami Herald analyzed money reported by candidates to the Federal Elections Commission. Candidates are required to disclose all donations of $200 and above, though some candidates voluntarily reported smaller donors to the FEC. It’s also common for wealthy donors to list other states as their primary residence if they live in Florida for part of the year, so those donations would not be included in the total. And some of the 2020 candidates may have raised money from out-of-state donors who happened to be in Florida for big political events like last month’s first presidential debate, money that would appear in other states’ fundraising totals instead of Florida.

Amandi said that 2020 candidates lower on the fundraising list, in particular Warren, are building a network of small-dollar donors in Florida that could continue fueling the campaign without Warren having to make fundraising trips that would take her attention away from important early states, like Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina.

“What Warren seems to be doing is laying the infrastructure for a long-term candidacy where she can tap and go back to a base of Floridians. When Elizabeth Warren comes to Florida, it’s campaigning for votes, not for dollars,” Amandi said.

Most of the candidates in the 2020 field spent time raising funds in Miami while they were in South Florida for the first presidential debate in June, though not all in the same way. Some Democrats noted that Warren’s decision to forgo big-dollar events gave her more time to do grassroots-style events in South Florida, like a rally with college students at Florida International University.

During the previous fundraising quarter that ended in March, Harris was the leader in Florida. She raised $235,000 in reported contributions while Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar came in second in Florida, collecting more than $125,000 in the first quarter.

This quarter, though, Harris and Klobuchar both saw their Florida donations drop. Biden wasn’t in the race during the first quarter.

“Before it’s all said and done, Florida will contribute at least $250 million to the presidential campaign likely on both sides,” Amandi said.

Buttigieg came in second in Florida but nationally, he led the money race in the last three months, raising nearly $25 million. Biden collected nearly $22 million, Warren raked in $19.2 million, Sanders took in $18 million, and Harris raised $11.8 million. None of the other Democrats raised more than $4.5 million in the quarter.

Florida’s Democratic presidential primary isn’t until March 17, 2020, but there will be 219 pledged delegates at stake, the third highest total of any state. Amandi expects Biden, who has been raking in donations from the state for decades, to continue leading the money race in Florida for the foreseeable future.

“It has been a 50-year-plus history of [Biden] coming to Florida and raising money in one of the most important states for fundraising,” Amandi said.

-- Alex Daugherty and Ben Wieder wrote this story

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