WMBF INVESTIGATES: Biden leads candidates in South Carolina donations

Updated: Feb. 27, 2020 at 6:44 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - South Carolinian donors gave more than $2.4 million to Democratic presidential candidates, according to the last numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the pack with $779,000 collected, making up 31% of the donations made to the top six candidates.

Sen. Bernie Senators raised $616,000 while Pete Buttigieg is trailing closely behind for third place with $578,000.

While Biden raised the most in a majority of the state, Sanders raised more in the Augusta/Aiken area, Greenville and Sumter.

Breaking the state data down, both Florence and Myrtle Beach donors also gave the most to Biden.

The Democratic candidates raised around $223,000 from Myrtle Beach donors. Data shows Biden raised the most with $87,000. Sanders raised around $3,000 fewer.

Candidates raised around $55,000 from Florence voters. Nearly 50% of the money was donated to Biden and another 35% donated to Sanders.

Buttigieg is ranking high for statewide donations but he has not raised significant amounts compared to Sanders and Biden in Myrtle Beach or Florence.

A majority of Biden’s donations stem from the Charleston/North Charleston area and Charlotte/Gastonia/Rock Hill area.

Coastal Carolina University political professor Drew Kurlowski said the number of individual donations in addition to total money raised can be an indicator of how successful a candidate may be in an area.

“Rather than, you know, a large donor or a super PAC donation, that broad base of support, getting donations from a number of different donors, is, of course, a good indicator of electoral strength,” Kurlowski said.

Sanders has nearly triple the number of contributions based on the most recently available data from the Federal Election Commission.

Kurlowski said there is a better relationship between the amount of money raised and votes cast during primaries.

"When we don’t know a whole lot about people, the fundraising game can be huge, " he explained. “I guess maybe a shortcut to determine who’s a viable candidate; who’s, you know, a potentially successful candidate.”

Biden is leading in polls as well as in donations. An average of recent polls place Sanders, Steyer and Buttigieg trailing behind, based on Real Clear Politics.

Kurlowski explained that winning Saturday’s primary could be a game-changer for a candidate’s campaign.

“The important electoral prize for South Carolina is not necessarily money, it’s not necessarily delegates, its momentum,” he said, “This is the last time that the voters are going to see these individuals before Super Tuesday. There are no more debates, no more races and however they end up on Saturday night that’s going to be the message that’s going to stick for the next five days until we see the results on Super Tuesday.”

A win on Saturday would also lead to more donations for candidates not just from South Carolina but statewide.

“Again, one of the biggest prizes to come out of South Carolina is who’s going to have the momentum, who can claim victory so that they can get probably the much-needed infusion of additional donations to go out and campaign on Super Tuesday where you have a number of different states across the country where you’re going to need to dump a lot of money,” he said.

How President Trump stacks up

President Donald Trump raised more than all the Democratic candidates combined in Myrtle Beach and Florence.

Individually, Trump has raised more than any Democratic candidate in the state. The Center for Responsive Politics found South Carolina donors gave $902,000 to Trump.

Biden has raised more than Trump in Charleston/North Charleston and Columbia.

The cost of the 2020 Democratic primary

The 2020 Democratic primary is the most expensive primary yet, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Candidates spent more than $1.2 billion, with Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg accounting for half of the spending. Excluding the billionaire candidates, the Center for Responsive Politics reported the primary is still the most expensive ever.

Kurlowski attributed the high cost to the higher number of major candidates still vying for the nomination.

“In 2016, obviously among the Democratic party, there were only two big candidates at this point. If you go back to 2012, there’s only one. At 2008, there’s only two,” he said. “I think this is the first time in a while where the Democratic party has had a presidential primary field that has been so large.”

Hillary Clinton received more than $2 million throughout South Carolina throughout the course of her 2016 campaign. She was the cash leader with Sen. Lindsey Graham and Trump trailing by $600,000. Both Florence and Myrtle Beach donors gave Trump the most money back during the 2016 election.

Data from the Center for Responsive Politics show South Carolinians donated more than $7.8 million to the eight candidates during the 2016 election.

Reporting based on data available as of February 21, 2020 provided from the Center for Responsive Politics.

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