Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida made headlines when he announced that his presidential campaign raised a record-breaking $8.2 million within the first 24 hours. However, recent data from the campaign reveals that this achievement heavily depended on big donors. While the campaign reported around 40,000 donors in May, the amount raised suggests an average donation of over $200 per donor, which is significantly higher than campaigns funded mainly by grass-roots support. To put it into perspective, Senator Bernie Sanders, known for his online fundraising skills, raised $5.9 million in his first 24 hours from 223,000 donors, with an average donation of about $26.
Why It Matters: The Importance of Small Donors and Grass-Roots Support
Campaign funding plays a crucial role in shaping the course of a political race. Contributions from small donors are especially valuable as they demonstrate grass-roots support and contribute to the long-term viability of a campaign. In DeSantis’ campaign, relying on larger contributors limits the potential for repeated support from the same donors due to strict contribution limits of $3,300 per person for the primary election. In contrast, small donors can make multiple modest contributions, helping campaigns avoid reaching contribution limits too quickly.
Tim Tagaris, a Democratic digital strategist who oversaw the fundraising operation for the Sanders campaign in 2020, expressed surprise at the relatively low number of DeSantis donors. He suggested that 40,000 donations within a week for a leading presidential campaign might indicate inadequate preparation leading up to the launch or a lack of anticipated grass-roots support from ordinary people. Tagaris added that this number of donors is more typical of top-tier Senate campaigns rather than those at the forefront of a presidential race.
However, Eric Wilson, a Republican digital strategist and the current director of the Center for Campaign Innovation, sees the number of donors as a promising start for a candidate who had not previously sought federal office. Wilson believes that significant donor support is necessary to challenge former President Donald J. Trump, who had a large donor base. It is worth noting that Kamala Harris, a previous presidential candidate, also had a similar number of total donors on her first day in 2019 (38,000), but only raised $1.5 million. This comparison highlights the importance of the larger contributions received by DeSantis.
Wilson advises against directly comparing Republican and Democratic campaigns due to differences in online grass-roots donor culture. It is believed that Republican donors are more than a decade behind in building a strong online fundraising foundation.
It is important to mention that the DeSantis campaign has not responded immediately to requests for comment.
In Context: Evaluating DeSantis’ Impressive Fundraising and Future Outlook
While Governor DeSantis’ claimed $8.2 million initial fundraising total is indeed impressive, it is essential to analyze its composition further. The campaign has not clarified how much of this amount is designated for the general election. According to the campaign’s statements, they are collecting up to $3,300 in general election contributions, which cannot be used during the primary and must be returned if DeSantis does not secure the nomination.
Overall, DeSantis is expected to have a strong financial advantage, particularly considering the substantial budget of at least $200 million for his allied super PAC. However, online fundraising has become increasingly challenging for Republicans since last summer.