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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this June 27, 2019, file photo, Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, left, speaks as former vice president Joe Biden gestures during the Democratic primary debate hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Art in Miami. Biden and Buttigieg represent the generational poles of the crowded Democratic presidential primary. Biden is hoping Democratic voters see his decades of experience as the remedy for Trump's presidency. Buttigieg argues that the moment calls for the energy of a new generation. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

WASHINGTON -- Some big fundraising hauls by Democrats have eased worries that lackluster totals last quarter were a sign the party would struggle to stockpile cash for the general election fight with President Donald Trump.

All campaigns had to report their second quarter fundraising totals to the Federal Election Commission by the end of Monday. But early glimpses offered by a handful of contenders show they collectively raised about $100 million, nearing the $105 million raised by Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Pete Buttigieg led the second quarter field of Democratic White House hopefuls with $24.8 million, a large sum for a candidate who entered the race months ago as the little-known mayor of South Bend, Ind. He was followed by former Vice President Joe Biden, who raised $21.5 million. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts rebounded from a mediocre first quarter and came in third with $19.1 million. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont posted $18 million, while Sen. Kamala Harris of California reported raising about $12 million.

But the news wasn't good for all the campaigns. Some candidates took in less than they did last quarter or were essentially treading water. It's the latest sign that two distinct tiers are emerging in the primary: one that will have ample resources to build a national operation and get its message out and another forced to make difficult financial decisions and triage limited cash.

"Top-tier candidates will need to pull in eight-figure quarters to stay competitive and run effective campaigns on a national scale," said Dennis Cheng, who was the finance director for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. "The second quarter was about raising the bar and exceeding expectations."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York raised $2.3 million -- about $500,000 less than last quarter. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee improved his numbers but still pulled in only about $3 million.

Thanks to a strong Democratic debate performance, former Housing Secretary Julian Castro more than doubled his previous haul. But his $2.8 million still puts him toward the back of the pack.

President Donald Trump's re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee raised $108 million and have $123.7 million cash on hand, according to revised figures announced Monday. That's more than the top five Democratic campaigns combined.

Trump's campaign committee and two joint fundraising vehicles, Trump Victory and Trump Make America Great Again, raised a combined $56.7 million, and ended June with $80.2 million in the bank. The RNC brought in $51.3 million, preliminary numbers showed, with $43.5 million in the bank.

One of the most immediate challenges for candidates who have struggled to gain traction is notching enough donors to qualify for the next round of debates.

The Democratic National Committee has increased the thresholds to reach the fall debate stage, leaving a wide swath of the field scrambling to qualify. To secure a slot on the stage, candidates have to reach 2% in a handful of polls while racking up contributions from at least 130,000 donors in at least 20 states.

That requires raising a significant amount online from low-dollar donors, a metric that is touted as a sign of a candidate's support from the party's grassroots.

Those who build a large network of small-dollar donors aren't just capable of raising money -- they are winning over the same party activists needed to turn out the vote, organize and proselytize, said Robert Zimmerman, a donor and Democratic National Committeeman from New York.

"Not too many top donors from Bel Air, Manhattan, Scottsdale and Palm Beach are going to be knocking on doors through the snows of Iowa and New Hampshire," he said. "But small-dollar donors and grassroots supporters, they build the campaign."

Information for this article was contributed by Mark Niquette of Bloomberg News.

A Section on 07/16/2019

Print Headline: Democrats' presidential fundraising rebounds

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