Sanders, Bloomberg drop millions in North Carolina as cash-hungry Warren, Biden near the red

Only three candidates surpassed the $1M mark in North Carolina ads

With less than one week until North Carolina casts its ballot on Super Tuesday, a handful of Democratic presidential candidates are flushing the state with millions of dollars in advertising, while some of their cash-hungry 2020 rivals are dangerously close to going broke.

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Mike Bloomberg, who’s financing his own campaign with his $60 billion fortune, has spent $16.4 million on North Carolina ad buys, according to Advertising Analytics, the most of any candidate. Billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has poured the second-highest amount into the state at $9.2 million, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has spent $1.2 million.

No other candidate surpassed the $1 million mark in North Carolina.

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Among the 14 states that vote on Super Tuesday, North Carolina has the third-largest number of delegates at stake, with 122 up for grabs. Only California, with nearly 500, and Texas, with 261, will have more at the summer convention in Milwaukee. Candidates need 1,991 delegates to become the Democratic nominee; a combined 1,344, or about one-third of the total, will be allotted on Super Tuesday alone.

Of the eight candidates still competing in the nominating contest, most have signaled that they intend to compete in the Super Tuesday elections, a do-or-die moment for Democrats struggling to keep their campaigns afloat.

According to an average of polls published by RealClearPolitics, Sanders has a narrow lead in North Carolina over former Vice President Joe Biden, in second, and Bloomberg, in third.

Sanders, whose anti-establishment campaign has become a financial juggernaut powered by an army of small-dollar donors, started February with a solid $17 million war chest, according to campaign finance disclosures filed Thursday night. His nearest non-billionaire rival, Biden, began the month with just $7.1 million.

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Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was the closest to the red, with just $2.29 million in the bank. Still, it remains to be seen how back-to-back solid debate performances could affect her odds and fundraising capabilities. (On the heels of the Nevada debate, the progressive candidate reported her best fundraising date yet). Pete Buttigieg, the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor, kicked off the month with $6.6 million in cash, while Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar had $2.9 million.

While fundraising doesn't necessarily show who's going to win the primary, it's an important indication of enthusiasm for a candidate and is necessary to propel the contenders through an arduous and expensive primary process — especially when facing off against Bloomberg, one of the wealthiest men alive. The 78-year-old billionaire has already spent close to $500 million of his own fortune on ads.

During the 2016 general election, President Trump won North Carolina by less than four percentage points. In recent weeks, Trump’s re-election campaign has deployed Lara Trump, the wife of his son Eric Trump, as a surrogate in North Carolina, where she was raised.

"Donald Trump is getting more votes in these primaries and caucuses than any other president in the past, right?" she said during a recent event. “Because we've got to send a message to folks, that Donald Trump is winning this state."

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