Democratic hopeful Beto O’Rourke raised an unprecedented $6.1m during the first 24 hours of his official run for the White House, his campaign announced on Monday.
The stunning sum is more than rival Bernie Sanders and every other 2020 Democratic challenger who has disclosed their first-day fundraising totals. His campaign did not immediately disclose the number of donors who contributed or the average size of the contribution.
“In just 24 hours, Americans across this country came together to prove that it is possible to run a true grassroots campaign for president – a campaign by all of us, for all of us, that answers not to the Pacs, corporations and special interests but to the people,” O’Rourke said in a statement.
Sign up for the US morning briefing
The former Texas congressman, like Sanders and some of his other colleagues, has shunned Pac donations of any kind. He did not rule out holding fundraisers.
At this stage in the primary contest, when polling typically reflects name recognition, early fundraising figures are an early test of a candidate’s strength and depth of support. For O’Rourke, the initial numbers are an indication of whether he can hold onto the support that powered his unexpectedly strong Senate challenge against incumbent Republican senator Ted Cruz last year.
The first-day haul also reflects O’Rourke’s remarkable rise from little-known congressman from the border town of El Paso to a national Democratic star after narrowly losing his Senate bid. During his 2018 Senate campaign, O’Rourke shattered records when he raised a historic $38m in just one quarter. Average donations were about $47.
O’Rourke formally entered the crowded Democratic primary last week after a months-long deliberation that included a five-state road trip across the American south-west, which he journaled in “Dear diary”– style posts on Medium. His rhetorical style and charismatic message has drawn comparisons to Barack Obama, but he has met resistance among some progressive activists who are critical of his ambiguity on policy.
Small-dollar donations are increasingly important to Democratic candidates as the party escalates its battle against big money in politics. For the first time, the Democratic National Committee has established a grassroots fundraising threshold to participate in the party’s televised primary debates.
Cory Booker, New Jersey senator
Booker first made a name as the hands-on mayor of Newark. Known for his focus on criminal justice reform and impassioned speeches on immigration, he has though been criticized for ties to Wall Street.
Pete Buttigieg, South Bend mayor
Buttigieg wants to be the first openly gay millennial president. A Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar, he became the youngest mayor of a mid-size US city at the age of 29. As a Navy Reserve lieutenant he deployed to Afghanistan while serving as mayor.
Julián Castro, former housing and urban development secretary
Castro casts himself as an antidote to Trump and the adminstration's hardline immigration policies. The grandson of a Mexican immigrant and raised by single mother, the 44-year-old Democrat is one of the most prominent Latinos in Democratic politics.
John Delaney, former Maryland congressman
He has delivered his message of pragmatism to voters in all 99 of Iowa’s counties since he officially kicked off the race in July 2017. The multimillionaire banking entrepreneur wants to build a big-tent party that appeals to independents and moderate Republicans.
Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii congresswoman
An Iraq war veteran who has vowed to run a campaign focused on issues of “war and peace”. Gabbard made history as the first Samoan American and the first Hindu elected to Congress. But she has drawn criticism for meeting with Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad, and progressives are wary of her past conservative views on on social issues.
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York senator
Years before the #MeToo movement, the New York senator was leading efforts in Congress to combat sexual assault in the military and on college campuses. The former corporate lawyer has embraced a slate of economic ideas supported by the party’s progressive wing.
Kamala Harris, California senator
Harris is one of Trump’s fiercest critics, and has built a national reputation grilling administration officials during their confirmation hearings. A former state attorney general and the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, Harris believes she has the unique profile to take on Trump.
John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado
Before he served two terms as governor of Colorado, the 67-year-old Democrat worked as a geologist for a petroleum company. After a lay off, he switched careers and opened a successful brewpub in Denver that helped to revitalize the city’s downtown.
Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington
Inslee is running as the “only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority”. As the country experiences more powerful hurricanes, scorching wildfires and submerged coastlines, polls show public concern is growing.
Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota senator
On Election Night 2018, Klobuchar coasted to a third term as senator in a state Trump almost won. Next morning she was on every short list of potential presidential candidates. Supporters say her success with rural voters makes her a formidable candidate in the Rust Belt, while her calm demeanour provides a clear contrast with Trump.
Beto O'Rourke, former Texas congressman
A one-time guitarist for an El Paso punk band called Foss, O’Rourke had kept a relatively low profile as a three-term congressman with little name recognition. He rose to national prominence during the 2018 midterms, when his bid to unseat Senator Ted Cruz garnered unprecedented grassroots support and a historic fundraising haul.
Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator
Sanders turned a long-shot, anti-establishment bid for the presidency into a “political revolution” that energized the party’s progressive base. His political career began nearly 40 years ago, but it wasn’t until his 2016 run that Sanders became a national figure as a new generation of Democrats – and 2020 contenders – embraced his populist economic policies.
Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator
Her sharp criticism of Wall Street and big corporations has made Warren a favorite among progressive activists, and she will campaign on a message of a rigged economic system and income inequality.
Marianne Williamson, author
This is not the spiritual guru and a new age author’s first foray into politics: in 2014, she mounted an unsuccessful congressional bid in California. Her entry adds some star-power to the race that may attract more celebrities.
Andrew Yang, businessman
A former tech executive and entrepreneur running the longest of long shot campaigns centered on the perils of automation. His central plank is a plan to give every American adult a salary of $1,000 per month, paid for by a tax on companies that benefit the most from automation.
Lauren Gambino and Sam Morris
Despite hinting on the campaign trail this weekend that he may not want to release his totals, O’Rourke’s $6.1m haul sets him apart in a sprawling field that has swelled to 15 Democrats.
Sanders entered the race with the largest donor list of any candidate running – one that he developed while running for president in 2016. Even so, he stunned political observers last month when he announced that his campaign had raised $5.9m in his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate.
California senator Kamala Harris raised more than the $1.5m in the first 24 hours of her campaign. Before Sanders entered the race, Harris claimed the biggest first-day fundraising total, which matched what the Vermont senator raised in April 2015 after he launched his bid for the nomination that year.
Lesser-known candidates such as Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar and former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, each reported earning $1m in the first 48 hours of their campaigns, while Washington governor Jay Inslee said his campaign had raised more than $1m three days after he entered the race.