Candidate finance filings give hints on health of presidential candidacies

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - On Wednesday, Americans got a better look at how presidential candidates are doing, not on the polls, but in their campaign war chests.

Candidates' third-quarter financial filings were due to the Federal Election Commission on Oct. 16, 2019. (Mary Green/KCRG)

Their third-quarter financial filings were due to the Federal Election Commission at midnight Wednesday, and three candidates pulled away from the pack.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg all brought in more than or close to $20 million in the period between July 1 and Sept. 30 — Sanders with $28 million, Warren with $24.7 million and Buttigieg with $19.2 million. Despite big spending last quarter, all three still have more than $20 million left in cash on hand — Sanders with $33.7 million, Warren with $25.7 million and Buttigieg with $23.3 million.

“Having more cash is better because then you can do more things at the same time,” Tim Hagle, political science professor at the University of Iowa, said. “You can have the bigger staff. You can do the direct advertising. You can get on television and radio and do it not just here in Iowa, but in more states."

Though former Vice President Joe Biden still leads in some polls, that’s not the case in his campaign finances.

In the third quarter, Biden raised $15.7 million but spent $17.7 million, and his campaign now has just under $9 million left in cash on hand, which Hagle said could be a problem for the former vice president.

"If he doesn't have that momentum going into South Carolina, where he has a really convincing win there, that he's not going to have the money available probably, the donations coming in so that he's going to be able to put on a big push on Super Tuesday,” Hagle said.

Biden is one of 11 candidates who spent more than they brought in during this period. The rest are Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Steve Bullock, Julian Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke and Tim Ryan.

Some candidates, including Harris, Biden and Andrew Yang, trail the overall top-three candidates but still have several million dollars left in reserves, with Harris holding on to $10.5 million and Yang with $6.4 million. Hagle said having that money is crucial to keeping candidates in the race at this point.

"For a lot of the people who may be willing to donate, well now we're getting towards the holidays, and they're going to be spending money on holiday expenses,” Hagle said.

However, other candidates, like Castro, Delaney, and Ryan, now have less than a million dollars left — Castro with about $672,000, Delaney with about $548,000 and Ryan with about $158,000.

"If you've only got a small amount of money, maybe you can only focus on one or two early states, and if you don't do well on those states, you don't have the momentum to carry on,” Hagle said.

For candidates short both on cash and in the polls, it might seem like an obvious decision to drop out, but Hagle said there could be reasons they're still in it.

"Some of them, again, maybe are just trying to raise their national profile,” he said. “Maybe they're auditioning for, I don't know, a vice-presidential slot or something like that."

President Donald Trump raised more than $40 million in the third quarter and currently has more than $80 million on hand. However, Hagle said Americans will have to wait until there's a Democratic nominee to get a real comparison between the two parties.