The Early Signs of the 2020 Ticket That Will Best Represent America

A few weeks ago, the Center for Responsive Politics released the latest fundraising contributions for the 2020 candidates. As of July 16, five Democratic candidates had raised at least $20 million. Senator Bernie Sanders currently leads with more than $46 million in contributions. So where is the money coming from? Here’s a breakdown of the early fundraising efforts for the five Democratic frontrunners. For perspective, I’ve included the early breakdowns for Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign as well as the final breakdowns for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trumps’s 2016 campaigns.

% of Small Contributions 

  • 1. Sanders – 60%
  • 2. Buttigieg – 48.8%
  • 3. Warren – 47.7%
  • 4. Harris – 38.9%
  • 5. Biden – 37.8%
  • 6. Trump (2016) – 25.93%
  • 7. Trump (2020) – 22.5%
  • 8. Clinton (2016) – 18.53%

% of Large Contributions

  • 1. Biden – 62%
  • 2. Harris – 56.1%
  • 3. Clinton (2016) – 52.67%
  • 4. Buttigieg – 51.2%
  • 5. Warren – 23%
  • 6. Sanders – 18.1%
  • 7. Trump (2016) – 14.01%
  • 8. Trump (2020) – 13.9%

% of Other Contributions

The Center for Responsive Politics describes the Other sector as “home to a variety of industries that don’t fall under any business, labor or ideological groupings. Categories include educators, government employees (though not their unions), nonprofit organizations, religious groups and members of the armed forces.” Here’s the breakdown so far:

  • 1. Trump (2020) – 63.5%
  • 2. Trump (2016) – 40.24%
  • 3. Warren – 29.3%
  • 4. Clinton (2016) – 28.23%
  • 5. Sanders – 21.9%
  • 6. Harris – 4.8%
  • 7. Biden – 0%
  • 8. Buttigieg – 0%

Trump’s percentages in this sector are owed in part to the Bernard Marcus Family Foundation, a foundation run by the GOP megadonor, Bernie Marcus.

Side note: % of Self-Financing

In 2016, Donald Trump used his own money to finance 19.77% of his fundraising. Neither of the five Democratic frontrunners nor Trump have used their own money toward their 2020 campaigns.


Metric 1: Average Ranking for Small, Large, and Other Contributions Combined

It’s tricky to combine the three percentages above into one metric. There are obviously large gaps between each contribution type for many of the candidates. When electing a President to represent the entire country and not only special interests, I think the American public should avoid candidates who have wide percentage gaps between contribution types. To try and identify some consistency across the three contribution categories, I took each of the candidate’s three rankings above and calculated the average. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 3.6 – Warren
  • 4. Harris
  • 4 – Sanders
  • 4.3 – Biden
  • 4.6 – Buttigeig
  • 5 – Clinton (2016)
  • 5 – Trump (2016)
  • 5.3 – Trump (2020)

I think this metric is useful. Based on percentages alone (not total dollars), fundraising for Trump’s 2020 campaign appears to be more polarized than his 2016 campaign. On the other hand, fundraising for every single Democratic candidate appears to be more evenly spread out compared to Clinton’s 2016 campaign. For example, Warren’s split of 47 small / 23 large / 29 other seems more representative of the country than Trump’s current split of 22 small / 14 large / 63 other or Clinton’s 18 small / 52 large / 28 other.


Demographics of Contributors

Now that we know the breakdown of small, large, and other contributions, let’s see how the candidates split between female and male contributors. Note: Joe Biden’s demographics data was not available at the time of publishing.

% of Female Contributors 

  • 1. Clinton (2016) – 52.3% 
  • 2. Warren – 49.7%
  • 3. Harris – 49.5%
  • 4. Sanders – 37% 
  • 5. Buttigeig – 33.4%
  • 6. Trump (2020) – 36.4%
  • 7. Trump (2016) – 28%
  • N/A – Biden (data not yet available)

% of Male Contributors

  • 1. Trump (2016) – 72%
  • 2. Buttigeig – 66.6%
  • 3. Trump (2020) – 63.6%
  • 4. Sanders – 63%
  • 5. Harris – 50.5%
  • 6. Warren – 50.3%
  • 7. Clinton (2016) – 47.7%
  • N/A – Biden (data not yet available)

Average Ranking for Female and Male Contributors Combined

  • 3.5 – Buttigeig
  • 4 – Harris
  • 4 – Warren 
  • 4 – Clinton (2016)
  • 4 – Sanders
  • 4 – Trump (2016)
  • 4.5 – Trump (2020)
  • N/A – Biden (data not yet available)

Metric 2: Percentage Gap Between Female and Male Contributors

Due to the large gaps between some of the percentages (i.e., Trump’s 63% male vs. 36% female), the rankings above aren’t a great guide for determining which candidate will best represent issues for male and female contributors. Instead, I think it’s more insightful to see how each candidate ranks by their percentage gaps between female and male contributors.

  • 1. Harris – 0.05%
  • 2. Warren – 0.06%
  • 3. Clinton – 4.6%
  • 4. Sanders – 26%
  • 5. Trump (2020) – 27.2%
  • 6. Buttigeig – 33.3%
  • 7. Trump (2016) – 44%
  • 8. Biden – N/A (data not yet available)

The 2020 Ticket That Will Best Represent America (So Far)

To find out which ticket will best represent America based on who’s contributing to the campaigns, I took the average rankings of metrics 1 and 2 listed above.

Remember, the job of the President is to represent the United States of America (rich and poor, private and public, men and women, etc.). I think the candidate with the smallest gap between male and female contributors (metric 1) and the most even distribution of small, large, and other contributions (metric 2) will fair best at the job. With that in mind, here’s the breakdown:

  • 1.5 – Harris
  • 1.5 – Warren
  • 3.5 – Sanders
  • 4.5 – Clinton (2016)
  • 5.5 – Buttigeig
  • 6.5 – Trump (2020)
  • 7 – Trump (2016)

Harris gets the Presidential edge because she has a 0.01% gender gap advantage over Warren. We obviously don’t know if Harris would appoint Warren as her Vice President, but it would be the best move for representation in the United States of America.

But Don’t You Remember What Happened in 2016?

Obviously, Donald Trump won the 2016 election despite ranking last on this list. But 2020 is a different election. Yes, it will carry some of the lessons of 2016, but it’s still a different election. Take Trump’s early fundraising performance as proof. His percentages of female contributors and small and”Other” contributions have increased so far in 2020, while his percentages of male contributors, large contributions, and self-financing have decreased.

That List Again with President Obama’s 2012 Campaign Included

For what it’s worth, I went back and added President Obama’s fundraising data from the 2012 election to the list above. Here’s how he compares:

  • 1.5 – Harris
  • 1.5 – Warren
  • 3.5 – Sanders
  • 4.5 – Clinton (2016)
  • 4.65 – Obama (2012)
  • 5.5 – Buttigeig
  • 6.5 – Trump (2020)
  • 7 – Trump (2016)

You could argue that Clinton’s similar performance to Obama in her 2016 loss is reason enough to approach every election differently.

Besides, at the end of the day, American citizens must remember that the biggest threat to a democracy is lack of representation. The way to avoid the threat is to follow the money in politics. Until the day comes when money no longer buys representation, voters need to begin following the money and choosing candidates who are going to represent the United States of America instead of special interests.


Learn How to Follow the Money (and Maybe Even Become a Contributor)

If you’re curious about campaign financing, The Center for Responsive Politics is an invaluable resource. In addition to tracking 2020 fundraising, the website features must-read material such as The Top 10 Things Every Voter Should Know About Money-In-Politics and its Follow the Money Handbook. You can learn more at opensecrets.org.