As you may have heard, Sen. Bernie Sanders raised $1.5 million in his first 24 hours as a candidate. That's a lot of money -- for you or me, anyway. (At least for me.) It's also more than the other candidates who've released how much they raised in their first day (or day-plus-a-few-hours):
But is it a lot for, you know, a political campaign? And why have only four candidates announced how much they've raised?
Because fundraising numbers like these are a tool for candidates floating in the second-tier of the presidential campaign to show that they can raise money. So the numbers get fudged and stretched and removed from context and put into new contexts. In reality, they don't really tell us much of anything.
This article is being written well after Sanders announced his haul because we wanted to wait until 24 hours after each of this week's new candidates made their announcements, to see how they compare. We reached out to the campaigns of Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee to ask how much each had raised. None responded. (Thanks!) So we have four figures: Sanders', Marco Rubio's, Rand Paul's, and Ted Cruz's. The latter two topped a million in a bit over 24 hours, so this comparison is not entirely even.
Which campaigns are happy with. When I wrote about Ted Cruz's fundraising last month, I used an early $500,000 figure. In short order, Cruz's press secretary emailed with the above update. Sure, raising that million took about 26 hours, but what's two hours among campaigns?
Paul's campaign, meanwhile, emphasized that the $1 million it raised was online only, implying that much more was raised elsewhere. Rubio and Cruz and their allies also made sure the press knew about their big-money contributions and commitments to campaigns and related super PACs. Tens of millions of dollars washing around. These guys must be serious!
Hillary Clinton didn't announce how much she raised in her first 24 hours. Why not? Because she is going to win the Democratic nomination. Clinton and Jeb Bush, expected to be at the top of each party's money totals, want to spend months accruing as much money as possible; the game they're playing is against each other as much as it is against the rest of their fields.
Sanders got what he was looking for from announcing his 24-hour total, a few ruminations that included, "hmm, maybe this is a thing." (That he ended up getting a more modest $1.5 million over the next three days might curtail some of those ruminations.) Sanders needs to prove he's viable. Clinton doesn't. (And his total certainly benefitted from being the only place not-Hillary-Clinton money could go at the moment.)
So why didn't Carson and Fiorina offer what they'd raised? They still may, but if they don't, it's fair to assume that the numbers were not quite what the other candidates had announced. Better to leave the subject to the optimistic imaginations of supporters than to remove all doubt.
But what about Huckabee? The former Arkansas governor is at least as viable as Ted Cruz. For one thing, it's only been 48 hours since his announcement, so it could be coming. For another, his campaign launch crippled his website for some time, which certainly lowered his total. Being a second-tier candidate who announces third-tier fundraising numbers is a particularly bad decision.
Fundraising is grueling and a long-term endeavor. It can and does shift as the dynamics of races shift. By announcing their one-day totals, the campaigns that have done so have really all made the same announcement: We want to be taken seriously. To that end, the ploy worked.