WASHINGTON - Donald Trump's re-election team on Thursday said he was sitting atop a large campaign war chest, underlining the scale of the challenge facing the U.S. president's Democratic rivals at the start of an election year.
With the departure of Julian Castro on Thursday, 14 candidates are still in the running to take on Trump and are competing for much-needed donations that keep a campaign's ground game and advertising operations going.
In the fourth quarter of 2019, even as Trump was being investigated and ultimately impeached by the House of Representatives, he raised $46 million. It was his best fundraising period in a year that brought in $143 million for his re-election efforts, the campaign announced.
And while Democrats are now raising funds to compete against one another ahead of the general election in November, Trump has the luxury of stockpiling funds until his opponent is selected.
Trump's campaign now has $102.7 million in cash on hand. "The president's war chest and grassroots army make his re-election campaign an unstoppable juggernaut," campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
The president faces an upcoming trial in the Senate, where members of his Republican Party hold a majority of seats.
Trump himself argued that the impeachment drama, while embarrassing for his legacy, has led to a flood of donations. He retweeted a report that described his campaign raising $10 million in the two days following the House impeachment vote.
Among Trump’s would-be challengers, Senator Bernie Sanders has so far raked in the most — $34.5 million in 2019's final three months — of any Democratic contender. That pushed his total to date to $96 million.
The Sanders team also said it topped the threshold of 5 million individual donations, a figure not reached by his 2016 campaign until March of that year.
"Together, we're proving you don't need to beg the wealthy and the powerful for campaign contributions in order to win elections," Sanders said.
Democratic rival Pete Buttigieg also posted strong numbers, raising $24.7 million in the fourth quarter. That pushed his 2019 total to more than $76 million.
Buttigieg — who until Wednesday served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana — has been a campaign surprise and leads in polling in Iowa, the state that votes first in the nomination race, on February 3.
Front-runner Joe Biden, the former vice president, raised $22.7 million in the last quarter of 2019, his best quarterly performance yet, his campaign said. Results for Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Amy Klobuchar were not yet available.
One candidate showing unexpected resilience was Andrew Yang, an Asian American entrepreneur with no political experience who remains in contention against far more established party figures.
Yang raised $16.5 million in the fourth quarter, capping a dramatic uptrend from early 2019 when he was a virtual unknown.
But while Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg and Klobuchar have qualified for the next Democratic debate, on January 14, Yang has not.
Neither have Senator Cory Booker, Representative Tulsi Gabbard or billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York who jumped into the race in November.
Castro, 45, also failed to meet the qualifications. His exit means the Democratic field becomes whiter and older, although two women and one gay candidate, Buttigieg, will be in January's debate.
Other Democratic candidates saluted Castro.
"Your voice and campaign were invaluable in sticking up for underrepresented communities and pushing the field forward," said Booker, the only remaining African American candidate in the top 10.