Democratic presidential candidates South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, left, and Sen. Bernie Sanders talk during a break, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate in Houston.
Democratic presidential candidates South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, left, and Sen. Bernie Sanders talk during a break, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate in Houston.

WASHINGTON - U.S. presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg released strong third-quarter fundraising totals on Tuesday that are likely to place them near the top of the Democratic field, with Sanders bringing in $25.3 million and Buttigieg $19.1 million.

Senator Cory Booker, who has languished in the low single-digits in polls, reported that he raised more than $6 million from July through September.

They were the first of the 19 candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election to report their fundraising totals for the quarter, which ended at midnight on Monday.

Sanders, whose status in opinion polls as the No. 2 candidate for the party's nomination behind Joe Biden has been threatened by a surge in support for fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren, hauled in more than any candidate has raised in any quarter so far.

Buttigieg, who has struggled to break into the top three spots in polls, fell short of the $24.8 million he raised in the second quarter, when he was the top fundraiser among Democratic candidates.

Fundraising numbers are closely watched to assess whether campaigns are collecting the cash needed to be competitive. They must file detailed fundraising reports for the third quarter to the Federal Election Commission by Oct. 15.

Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, had said he needed to raise $1.7 million in the last 10 days of the quarter to remain viable. His campaign said it raised $2.1 million from more than 46,000 donations during that final push.

Sanders' total came from 1.4 million individual donations and surpassed the $18 million he raised in the second quarter.

Campaign officials pointed to the grassroots, small-dollar nature of his fundraising as a sign of the breadth of his support.

Sanders quickly put some of his campaign cash to work. His campaign released his first paid television advertisement of the cycle and bought $1.3 million in air time in Iowa, which kicks off the race with the first state nominating contest on Feb. 3, 2020.

Sanders has raised a total of $61.5 million since he launched his bid in February.

The campaign said that Monday — the final day of the third quarter — was the Vermont senator's second-biggest fundraising day of the campaign. The average donation was $18.07. Nearly all of Sanders' donors have not hit their maximum allowed contribution, the campaign said, meaning they can give again.

Buttigieg has raised a total of $51 million so far this year, his campaign said in a memo to reporters. The average donation in the third quarter was $32.

The South Bend, Indiana mayor's campaign said it hired 400 new staff and opened its first 42 field offices, including 21 in Iowa, in the third quarter.