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Sanders Campaign Raises Millions In Small Contributions

Charlie Neibergall
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks with supporters during an open house at his Iowa campaign headquarters on June 13. The average contribution to Sanders' campaign is less than $50.

The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign has met its initial fundraising target. Campaign officials say it's now clear that Sanders can meet his overall goal of $40 million for the primary campaign by relying on small contributors.

In the three weeks since Sanders held his official campaign kickoffin Burlington, more than $6 million has flowed into his campaign treasury. The average contribution is less than $50.

Jeff Weaver headed up Sanders' congressional office for many years, and recently he was appointed as manager of the presidential run. He says fundraising is going very well, and shows the power of the Internet.

Explore VPR's full coverage of Bernie Sanders' presidential bid here.

“Modern technology is such that people giving $30, $40 apiece can impact on a national campaign for President of the United States. So it's really a sea change in American politics,” Weaver says.

Weaver notes that Sanders is drawing huge crowds in Iowa and New Hampshire. And last weekend, 5,000 people came to hear him speak in Minneapolis.

"I think there's just a hunger out in the country for someone to speak to the issues that really affect the lives of middle income and working families,” Weaver says. “What Bernie is doing, and what he's done his entire career, is speak to those legitimate needs and aspirations."

UVM political science professor Garrison Nelson expects Sanders will do well in the states with the first two contests – Iowa and New Hampshire – because voters in these states expect to meet the candidates.

"Bernie is a great street politician, and Iowa and New Hampshire are both ‘retail’ politics states, where you get your votes there one at a time. And so he will come out of both states in good shape." - Garrison Nelson, UVM political science professor

"Bernie is a great street politician, and Iowa and New Hampshire are both ‘retail’ politics states, where you get your votes there one at a time,” Nelson says. “And so he will come out of both states in good shape.”

Nelson says Sanders has been talking about income inequality for his entire political career. That's why Nelson thinks Sanders is in good shape to highlight this issue.

"He's enjoying himself. This is the best time of his life, you'd have to say, politically, and people do want an alternative. They're not sure Bernie is the alternative, but they do want an alternative to Hillary who they can vote for,” Nelson says.

Sanders is back on the campaign trail this weekend with stops in Nevada, Colorado, and South Carolina.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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