Fans of long strings of numbers, rejoice! The 2016 presidential candidates' third-quarter fundraising reports came trickling in on Thursday, offered by most campaigns with the enthusiasm of a kid who had to get a note from his teacher signed by his parents. It's super easy to dive far too deep into the numbers in an effort to figure out the state of play in the race, so let's do that!
Ha ha, no, let's not. Instead, let's translate those strings of numbers into easier-to-read graphics that will allow you to dive far too deep into them at your leisure.
The first interesting detail from the filings is that the Democrats raised much more money per candidate than the Republicans. Overall, the Republican candidates raised more, but thanks to the smaller number of Democrats, they raised more on average.
More significantly, the two leading Democrats had about as much cash on hand as the full Republican field. Cash-on-hand is a different metric than fundraising, revealing how much each campaign actually has in the bank. This means that the leading Democrats have as much to spend (or had, as of Sept. 30) as all of the Republicans we've been talking about for months.
Thanks to the fact that the field was less splintered, even less-prominent Democrats outscored some Republicans on fundraising. Harvard professor Larry Lessig's quixotic effort to run as a Democrat earned him just over a million dollars in contributions — only a bit less than Lindsey Graham, who's a sitting U.S. senator. As Kyle Cheney of Politico noted, Lessig outraised Bobby Jindal, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore combined. (Outraising Jim Gilmore by himself is less challenging.)
How the leading Democrats raised that money is its own story. We've noted before that small donors offer an opportunity that maxed-out donors don't; namely, that they can be used for fundraising appeals again in the future. As our Matea Gold reported, about 18 percent of what Hillary Clinton took in during the third quarter came from people giving $200 or less. For Bernie Sanders, the figure was about 77 percent.
And then there's the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, who prides himself on financing his own campaign. That was mostly true in the second quarter. But in the third quarter, Trump ponied up only $100,000 of his own money, about 9 percent of what he raised. And where'd the money go? Well, 17 percent of it was spent on hats and T-shirts. Which really isn't a surprise, if you think about it.
Now we will make another comparison, one that summarizes the 2016 Republican field neatly and as noted by the Wall Street Journal.
The lessons we can learn about presidential politics, then, are as follows.
1. If you're running for president, it's better to do so in a party that doesn't have 16 other people vying for the nomination.
2. Come up with a good hat slogan.
Hope you're taking notes, Joe.