Editors' pick: Originally published Aug. 5.
Is Donald Trump the new Bernie Sanders of grassroots fundraising?
The Republican presidential nominee this week announced his campaign, in conjunction with the Republican National Committee, brought in $64 million in donations in July through a joint digital and mail effort.
The Trump camp says most of the money came through small-dollar donations. Steve Mnuchin, Trump finance chairman, told The New York Timesthat more than two-thirds of the $64 million haul came online.
Earlier in the week, Trump said at an event in Columbus, Ohio that the average donation size was $69 per person. (He also said the money raised through small donors was $35.8 million, significantly less than the official amount put out by his campaign later.)
Including $16 million raised through 20 events for the Trump Victory Fund, the Trump camp and the RNC brought in $80 million in July. He went into August with $74 million in cash on hand.
That's not far behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who at the start of the week announced $90 million raised in July and kicked off this month with $58 million in cash reserves. According to her camp, 54% of contributions were from new donors, and the average donation size was $44.
In touting the average size of their donations, both Trump and Clinton are trying to prove their prowess at a game Sanders perfected: getting support from many people who donate small amounts of money.
The Vermont senator raised unprecedented amounts of money through online and grassroots fundraising this election cycle. He amassed over two million individual donations in 2015 alone. At the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, he said his campaign received eight million individual campaign contributions from 2.5 million people.
"Anyone know what the average contribution was? That's right, $27," he said.
President Obama praised his efforts in April. "You've got to give Bernie Sanders, for example, credit -- building off some of the work I did; I, in turn, built off the work that Howard Dean did -- for smaller donations, grassroots donors, to build up small contributions to allow candidates to be competitive," he said.
Trump, at the Columbus rally, gave Sanders a shout-out as well.
"How incredible is that, right? And it's not even to me, the money," Trump said. "In all fairness, Bernie Sanders was doing that, you know? Because it was a movement, now it was a movement on the other side of the plate."
Trump's fundraising team has previously hinted they hoped to tear a page out of the Sanders grassroots playbook. Trump Texas fundraising co-chairman Gaylord Hughey told Reuters there were plans for significant outreach to small-dollar donors. "There's a huge opportunity there," he said.
The Trump camp appears to be using paid Facebook (FB) - Get Report ads to drive donations and emails as well. This week, it sent out an email blast touting Trump's The Art of the Deal. Contributions of $184 would get supporters a signed copy of the book.
In putting weight on grassroots efforts, Trump is utilizing fundraising tactics more common in liberal politics. Democrats Howard Dean and Barack Obama were among the first to harness the digital revolution in political campaigning and fundraising, pushing towards the technology-driven fundraising of today.
ActBlue, a Massachusetts-based grassroots fundraising platform, has fueled thousands of Democratic campaigns and progressive organizations since its 2004 launch. It was the Sanders camp's tool of choice for its fundraising efforts. It has no significant counterpart on the right.
Reports and rumors swirled this week that big Republican donors are in a panic over Trump's unconventional way of campaigning. But if he is as successful in his Bernie-esque grassroots effort as his camp says he is, he might not care.
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