By Amanda Becker and Ginger Gibson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential hopefuls started 2020 by reporting sizable cash fundraising totals, presenting new evidence that Republican President Donald Trump's growing campaign war chest may face some serious competition from his rivals.
Six of the top Democratic candidates have already reported raising more than $131 million in the final three months of 2019. That total does not include the millions that two billionaire candidates - Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer - have pumped into the contest from their personal wealth.
Trump remains the individual candidate who collected the most money, raising $46 million in the last quarter, a sum his campaign attributed to donations from supporters upset about the U.S. House of Representatives impeaching the president. He eclipsed his third quarter fundraising haul of nearly $41 million, his campaign said.
And while Democrats are posting large fundraising totals, much of that money will be spent before the party's attention can turn to Trump. Democrats must first fight through primary elections, for which voting begins in about a month.
But Democrats are likely to still be encouraged by the outpouring of enthusiasm from donors as evidence that party faithful are ready to fund a fight against Trump.
Fundraising has become a point of contention for the field of Democratic presidential hopefuls.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has criticized her rivals for holding fundraising events that court donors capable of writing $2,800 checks. She vowed early in the election cycle to not hold fundraisers and rely almost entirely on donations made online.
The target of much of her criticism, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, has argued that Democrats need to be taking donations from all donors, including the wealthy, to remain competitive with Trump.
Warren is the only top-tier Democrat to see a fundraising dip from the third quarter to the fourth.
The Massachusetts senator raised $21.2 million during the final quarter of 2019, dropping from $24.6 million the prior quarter, her campaign said on Friday.
Other Democrats fared better.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders raised more than $34.5 million in the fourth quarter, likely to be the largest three-month haul for a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
Buttigieg raised $24.7 million and former Vice President Joe Biden raised $22.7 million in the same period.
Businessman Andrew Yang raised $16.5 million. And U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar raised $11.4 million, more than doubling the previous quarter's amount after two highly praised debate performances, her campaign announced on Friday.
In an email to supporters, Warren's campaign said it had received nearly 900,000 donations from more than 443,000 people, and the average contribution was about $23. Since she began her presidential campaign one year ago, nearly 1 million donors have given 2.7 million contributions totalling more than $71 million.
(Reporting By Amanda Becker; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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Updated Date: Jan 04, 2020 00:15:41 IST