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Trump trounces Democratic rivals in election fundraising
[WASHINGTON] Donald Trump's re-election team revealed on Thursday that he is sitting atop a staggering campaign war chest, underlining the scale of the challenge facing the US president's Democratic rivals at the start of an election year.
The sprawling Democratic field meanwhile lost another candidate when Julian Castro, the only Hispanic in the 2020 field, announced he was ending his bid.
That leaves 14 candidates still in the running to take on Mr Trump - and competing for much-needed donations that keep a campaign's all-important ground game and advertising operations going.
In the fourth quarter of 2019, even as Mr Trump was mired in a political scandal that resulted in his impeachment by the House of Representatives, he came out on top, raising a staggering US$46 million.
It was his best fundraising period in a year that brought in US$143 million for his re-election efforts, the campaign announced, easily outpacing the Democrats seeking to replace him.
And while Democrats are now effectively raising funds to compete against one another ahead of the general election in November, Mr Trump has the luxury of stockpiling funds until his opponent is selected.
Mr Trump's campaign now has an impressive US$102.7 million in cash on hand.
"The president's war chest and grassroots army make his re-election campaign an unstoppable juggernaut," Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
"Democrats and the media have been in a sham impeachment frenzy and the president's campaign only got bigger and stronger with our best fundraising quarter this cycle."
The president faces a trial in the US Senate, where a Republican majority is expected to acquit him on charges of abuse of office and obstruction of Congress.
Mr Trump himself argued that the impeachment drama, while embarrassing for his legacy, has led to a flood of donations.
He retweeted a report that describes his campaign raising a whopping US$10 million in the two days following the impeachment vote.
'DON'T NEED TO BEG'
Mr Trump's fundraising haul is significantly higher than that of his challengers including Senator Bernie Sanders, who has raked in the most - US$34.5 million in 2019's final three months - of any Democratic contender.
That pushes Sanders's overall donations to US$96 million, a sign of resilient enthusiasm for the 78-year-old liberal from Vermont.
His campaign also said it topped a notable threshold of five 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," Mr Sanders said.
Former vice-president Joe Biden, the Democratic frontrunner, announced US$22.7 million in donations for the October-to-December period, his biggest quarterly haul of the year and about a 50 per cent improvement over his lackluster Q3 numbers.
Mr Biden has raised a total of US$59.5 million since launching his campaign in late April.
Fundraising powerhouse Pete Buttigieg, who like Mr Biden is a centrist Democrat, posted even stronger numbers, raising US$24.7 million in the fourth quarter, bringing his 2019 total to more than US$76 million.
Mr Buttigieg - who until Wednesday served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana - leads in polling in Iowa, the state which votes first in the nomination race, on February 3.
Senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar have yet to announce their quarterly hauls.
One candidate showing unexpected pluck is Andrew Yang, an Asian-American entrepreneur with no political experience who remains in contention against more established party figures.
Mr Yang raised US$16.5 million in the fourth quarter, capping a dramatic uptrend from early 2019 when he was largely unknown.
But while Mr Biden, Mr Sanders, Ms Warren, Mr Buttigieg, and Mr Klobuchar have qualified for the next debate, on January 14, Mr Yang has not.
Neither have Senator Cory Booker, congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, or billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York who only jumped into the race in November.
The 45-year-old Castro also failed to meet the qualifications. His exit means the Democratic field becomes whiter and older, although two women and one gay candidate, Mr Buttigieg, will be in January's debate.