Carson Rakes-In Record Fundraising Totals

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Carson Rakes-In Record Fundraising Totals
| published October 1, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

Ben Carson’s recent gains in the Republican polls have been paralleled by similar boosts for Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio. Carson, the retired neurosurgeon and author, has seen the fortunes of his presidential candidacy rise almost in tandem with the slow but steady deflation of support for businessman Donald Trump.

Despite losing ground since the last GOP debate in September, Trump remains the front runner—solidly in some polls, barely in others. Some polls show Carson and Fiorina closing in so quickly as to make the once-lopsided Republican race something akin to a three-way tie for the top spot. Other polls simply show what most political observers expected: a slow but steady leakage in support for the boisterous and gregarious Trump, whose political stock rose rapidly after his official entry into the crowded field.

Fiorina, former HP CEO and the candidate generally scored as having performed best in the most recent debates, has also seen her candidacy gain ground in the last six weeks. Combined, the rise of Carson and Fiorina, both political newcomers, has nudged one-time front-runner Jeb Bush deep into fifth place, behind fellow Floridian, Senator Marco Rubio.

Looking at the Republican race from a wide perspective, the anti-Washington, anti-establishment sentiment among rank and file GOP voters is powerful, and has thrust non-traditional candidates and political outsiders into dominance in an already crowded field which barely six months ago was believed to be a battle between governing skills, Senators versus Governors.

But that was then, and this is now. Like Trump, Carson prefers to distance himself from the established template familiar among politicians. Carson also prefers to be seen as a problem-solver with an outsider’s perspective on Washington’s deep troubles. Converting the frustration of millions of voters exhausted with the gridlock and partisan pettiness, Trump, Carson and Fiorina all propose to bring change to the way things work in Washington. Together, they now command the support of more than half of all likely Republican voters.

But Carson is now leading in another crucial and important area: cash. The candidate known for his thoughtful, often quiet responses in the last two televised debates is now making headlines with a record haul of donations from supporters. Over the last 90 days Carson’s campaign took in slightly over $20 million, according to federal filings and statements released by his campaign staff this week. Carson’s campaign spokespersons say that with some donations and receipts still coming in, it may be a few days before the exact total is known, but it will exceed $20,250,000. About $12 million of that came in the month of September.

All told, Carson has received some $31.1 million just since his official entry into the race in May of this year. That cash has come from about 600,000 donations credited to about 353,000 individual donors, according to information provided to the Associated Press and other media organizations. That makes Carson’s campaign one of the most successful in all of American politics, if measured by fundraising.

Carson’s intake of cash parallels his rise in the polls, and upends the previous narrative: that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush would win the money wars by raising funds heavily and deeply as early as possible, thereby quickly sidelining his GOP rivals long before the first contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. While Bush’s once-mighty fundraising machine stalls, Carson’s is on the rise, adding to the speculation that it is Carson who may begin nudging others from the still-crowded field.

Cash is critical in the 90-day period prior to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Campaigning in all three can be expensive, though professionals point out that New Hampshire—depending on the winter weather—is manageable because of its small size. Travel can be achieved easily by bus, distances are compact, and the purchase of TV, radio and newspaper advertising can be done without a lot of waste. But Iowa and South Carolina are bigger states, and require far more cash for the logistics of travel and the expense of advertising. Super Tuesday and Florida, which come later, get even more costly.

But that record haul of money may come in especially handy as Carson approaches Iowa. Starting in August, Carson’s campaign has been spending its cash at a healthy clip—about $10.6 million so far—most of it on the routine costs of campaign events and fundraisers, but also on direct mail appeals, internet advertising, online presence, and telemarketing. Much of the kind of spending being deployed by Carson’s team is the sort of targeted money typically seen being spent in January and February. But the Trump Factor has disrupted that normally reliable, and Carson’s people want to deploy as much firepower early as possible.

Carson has closed the distance with Trump in some polls, but Carson has also already become the social media champion, outstripping all other Republican candidates with just over 4 million Facebook followers. Carson’s 4 million followers exceed Trump’s following by about 100,000 fans. Among the GOP candidates, Carson is also the most active in using social media to engage followers and supporters—with a constant thread of questions and answers (many answered personally by Carson), and news articles and videos posted every 24 hours. (To be fair to Trump, the businessman, billionaire, and TV personality has a much bigger following on Twitter—some 4.3 million to Carson’s 688,000…a massive difference.)

Meanwhile Trump and his campaign strategists are seeking to realign and reboot the perception that the race is still going their way after a spate of recent polls have shown support sagging for the real estate mogul.

On the Democratic side, front-runner Hillary Clinton has raised $28 million in the same quarter—a solid and hefty pile of cash, only slightly more than the $26.1 million raised by insurgent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Sanders and his campaign team have developed an online fundraising apparatus which is bringing in far more cash than other Democrats might have thought possible. Most of Sanders donations are in smaller increments, according to his FEC filings: that $26.1 million came from about one million individual contributors.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Ben Carson in Virtual Tie With Trump; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; September 28, 2015.

Trump Thumps O’Reilly, Kelly, Rubio, Polls; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; September 25, 2015.