Biden finds unexpected success with low-dollar donors

Joe Biden is finding unexpected online fundraising success from low-dollar donors, with more than 97% of his contributions coming from those who gave less than $200, his presidential campaign announced Tuesday.

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The former vice president, who last month raised $6.3 million in his first 24 hours as a candidate, was widely expected to do well with conventional big-dollar Democratic donors, who have lasting loyalty to President Barack Obama's No. 2. But it was an open question whether he'd be able to raise small amounts online from the party's base, a metric that is often touted as a demonstration of grassroots support.

His campaign says the newly released figures are a clear sign that he will be able to compete not just with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas, whose online fundraising operations led the Democratic field last quarter, but also with President Donald Trump.

"We're continuing to build a robust digital operation that brings new voters to Team Joe and puts our campaign in a position of strength to take on Donald Trump," said Biden digital adviser Brandon English. "On Day One, a record-breaking 65,000 people found us online and donated to Joe Biden. These are people we didn't have email addresses for 24 hours earlier."

The campaign says nearly two-thirds of Biden's donors gave a total of less than $25, with teachers comprising the largest professional block of contributors.

But while Biden's campaign is happy to talk about the percentage of donors who have given small contributions over the internet, including 96,000 who gave during the first 24 hours of his campaign, they won't say how much has been raised online. Meanwhile, much of his recent campaign schedule has centered around high-dollar donor events in Los Angeles and Florida.

Sanders, a prolific online fundraiser, took in more than $15 million last quarter from those who gave less than $200, including nearly $6 million collected from about 220,000 donors in the 24 hours after launching his campaign. O'Rourke took in about $5.5 million from donors who gave less than $200 during the first quarter, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Many candidates in the race have spent years building out their online fundraising operations, which often target prospective donors through social media ads and emails that ask for a small contribution.

Biden is a relative newcomer, though he did have one major advantage: Obama's email list. Another likely factor is his nascent success is online ad spending that has outpaced Trump $1.5 million to $969,000, according to spending data tabulated by the digital firm Bully Pulpit Interactive.

"Every story until now has been 'Trump is outspending Democrats online,' and it's clear Biden and his team understand that," said Tim Lim, a Democratic digital strategist who worked for Obama and Hillary Clinton. "They are putting their money where their mouth is."

The campaign says their biggest fundraising moment since their launch was during a Biden rally in Philadelphia on Saturday, when they took in about $1,000 per minute.

Lim, however, said that for all the talk about online fundraising, the most important numbers remain how much cash you have and how quickly you're spending it.

"There will be a lot of spin about those metrics, but unless they are impacting your bottom line, they don't really matter," he said.

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This story has been corrected to show that Saturday was the Biden campaign's biggest fundraising moment since their launch, not its biggest fundraising day.