Minnesotans gave record amounts to campaigns during a chaotic year
With Election Day around the corner, Minnesotans have continued flooding political campaigns with cash, shattering fundraising records for Republicans and Democrats alike.
Small donor activity — defined as donors who give $200 or less during an election cycle — is often seen as an indicator of voter enthusiasm. And Minnesotans have thrown millions of dollars at presidential and congressional campaigns during this cycle – to Democrats via the online platform ActBlue and Republicans through the platform WinRed – far outpacing the last presidential election in 2016.
Democrats dwarfed 2016's fundraising
ActBlue – a nonprofit fundraising platform that allows donors to easily send money to Democratic organizations – has steadily grown in popularity since it launched in 2004, with 2016 and 2018 drawing its biggest totals yet.
This election cycle has blown away those numbers, with ActBlue raising a record $1.5 billion nationwide for Democratic campaigns during the third quarter of 2020. About $22 million of that came from Minnesotans – 13 times more than 2016. In total, Minnesota donors have given around $60 million to Democratic campaigns and committees via ActBlue since last year.
The GOP grew its small donor base
Since Republicans launched the rival conduit WinRed last year, individual donors have used it to give more than $1 billon nationally to GOP candidates – a milestone it took ActBlue about a decade to reach.
In Minnesota, after a slow start to the cycle, about $20 million has passed through WinRed to Republican campaigns and committees — and that pace has not slowed with November approaching.
Biden has outraised Trump in Minnesota
Incumbent presidents typically hold a sizeable fundraising advantage over their challengers, but in the waning months of the campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden has outraised President Donald Trump by a large margin.
In Minnesota, Biden has held a fundraising edge over Trump among individual contributors, including small donors, which some observers see as an indication of Democratic enthusiasm.
ActBlue and WinRed donors also contributed to multiple congressional campaigns, along with joint fundraising committees like the Biden Victory Fund and Trump Victory, which share funds with other organizations within their respective parties, including those in Minnesota. For instance, the Biden Victory Fund has forwarded $2.3 million to the DFL locally and Trump Victory sent more than a half million to the Republican Party of Minnesota.
These sums are drawn primarily from tens of thousands of individual donors who either give donations totaling $200 or less during the cycle, or otherwise send small amounts at a time. The average contribution to ActBlue in October was $27, while the WinRed average was $55.
September saw 16 times more individual contributions, large and small, from Minnesotans via ActBlue compared to the last presidential election. Minnesota Republicans too, via WinRed, expanded their donor pool quickly, already surpassing ActBlue’s 2016 pace in the final stretch.
A frenetic primary season, major presidential campaign announcements, debates, breaking news events, civil unrest, demonstrations and quarantines each drove significant spikes in donations, especially during the campaign's final weeks.
The first donation surge of the 2020 election cycle occurred when Minnesota's own U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced her candidacy for president in February 2019. Other surges happened after Klobuchar dropped out just before Super Tuesday and Biden's victory in Minnesota's presidential primary. The single largest day of donations ($1.3 million to ActBlue from Minnesotans alone) occured when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September.
Donations to both ActBlue and WinRed flattened as COVID-19 struck Minnesota shortly after Super Tuesday, which was followed by shelter-in-place orders and widespread economic instability.
But despite the pandemic, Minnesotans have driven a record-breaking year in terms of campaign finance and early voting. The results of those efforts will be known in just a few days.
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Note: Totals include contributions made through Oct. 14, 2020 and don't factor those that were refunded or earmarked as donations to ActBlue or WinRed.
Sources: Federal Election Commission, ActBlue, WinRed, ProPublica, OpenSecrets.org