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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this April 5, 2019, file photo, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers construction and maintenance conference in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

WASHINGTON -- The crowded field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates is showing early signs of money trouble as donors sit on the sidelines to see how the contest unfolds, signaling a drawn-out primary battle ahead.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump's re-election campaign is set to report that it raised more than $30 million in the first quarter of 2019, edging out his top two Democratic rivals combined, according to figures it provided to The Associated Press.

The Democratic campaign came into greater focus on Monday as declared White House hopefuls reported their first quarter fundraising totals. Early glimpses provided by some of the more than a dozen declared candidates show that Democrats are raising less money than they have in previous cycles and are coming up short against the campaign bank account Trump is building.

Democrats collectively raised about $70 million since January, according to the candidates who have already released their fundraising totals. That's less than the $81 million Democrats raised during the same period in 2007, the last time the party had an open primary, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. And it pales in comparison with the $30 million Trump raised during the first quarter.

"There is no question that the numbers are not at the level that they were with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008 by a long shot," said Tom Nides, a Clinton adviser and longtime fundraiser. "Am I worried? No, I'm not worried. But I'm a little bit concerned."

One of the hurdles for Democrats is that there are so many candidates competing for cash. That has encouraged some larger donors to take their time before backing a candidate, said Rufus Gifford, a Democratic donor who was Obama's finance director.

"The donors are taking too long to get off the sidelines," Gifford said. "There's lots of hemming and hawing."

The dynamic could change rapidly in the months ahead as Democrats participate in the first presidential debate of the cycle in June. Donors could look to those performances to decide where to direct their money. Former Vice President Joe Biden's expected White House campaign also could scramble the situation.

For now, Bernie Sanders is leading the scramble for cash. The senator from Vermont pulled in $18 million, followed by Sen. Kamala Harris of California with $12 million, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas with $9.4 million and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose surprise-hit campaign raked in $7 million.

After that comes Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who raised $6 million, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota with $5.2 million and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey who raised $5 million. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York raised $3 million, while Washington Gov. Jay Inslee raised $2.2 million, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper took in about $2 million and former Housing Secretary Julian Castro raised $1.1 million.

A combination of factors has led to the candidates' cash quandary. Some of the donors who are getting involved in the campaign are cutting checks to multiple campaigns but aren't bundling money by asking their friends, colleagues and acquaintances to give, too.

Online fundraising also has become a big factor. A flood of campaign cash from low-dollar donors helped propel the Democratic takeover of the House during the 2018 midterms. But networks of online donors take time to build out, and the ability to raise money on the internet often can be tied to a fleeting viral moment that provokes a vivid emotional response from the party's base. Then there's the fierce intraparty debate over the propriety of relying on big-money donors to finance their campaigns.

Trump's reported $30 million brings the campaign's cash on hand to $40.8 million, an unprecedented war chest for an incumbent president this early in a campaign. The Trump campaign said nearly 99 percent of its donations were of $200 or less, with an average donation of $34.26.

Trump's fundraising ability was matched by the Republican National Committee, which brought in $45.8 million in the first quarter -- its best non-election-year total. Combined, the pro-Trump effort is reporting $82 million in the bank, with $40.8 million belonging to the campaign alone.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement that Trump "is in a vastly stronger position at this point than any previous incumbent president running for re-election, and only continues to build momentum."

Trump is benefiting from the advantages of incumbency, such as universal name recognition and his unrivaled position atop the Republican Party. He gave or loaned $66 million to his 2016 campaign but has yet to spend any of his own cash for his re-election effort. Aides don't expect that to change.

Information for this article was contributed by Bill Barrow and Zeke Miller of The Associated Press.

A Section on 04/16/2019

Print Headline: Democrats trail Trump in election fundraising

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