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Bernie Sanders raises $15 million. Chump change or a lot?

According to his campaign, Bernie Sanders has received contributions from some 250,000 individuals. Ninety-nine percent of the donations were for $250 or less.

Bernie Sanders has raised $15 million since joining the presidential race in April. Is that a lot, relatively speaking?

Yes, it’s a pretty good haul. Look at it this way: That’s fairly close to the $18 million that moneybags Mitt Romney raised for his general account in the first three months of his declared presidential run in the 2012 election cycle.

Plus, Senator Sanders did it the hard way, via small donors. According to his campaign, Sanders received contributions from some 250,000 individuals. Ninety-nine percent of the donations were for $250 or less. (By way of contrast, the federal limit for campaign giving is $2,700 per person, per primary or general election.)

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Sanders’s new cash stash shouldn’t be too surprising: He’s a decent fundraiser for a guy who slams Wall Street and used to call himself a socialist. Or he’s a decent attracter of money: It’s not as if he’s holding constant donor fundraising events, though he’s attended a few.

You can see this by looking at his electoral history. In his last two Senate elections, 2006 and 2012, he raised more than $5 and $6 million, respectively. That’s well over the average for other senators facing reelection those years, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The upshot of Sanders’s take is that it shows that his polls and his crowds aren’t the only indicators he’s making some progress in his campaign. He’s got enough money and enough of a donor base to maintain at least a subsistence-level campaign for as long as he wants.

Remember, unlike Hillary Clinton, Sanders seems to be running to raise and discuss populist issues, as opposed to being elected president. He doesn’t need to spend money planning for extensive get-out-the-vote teams and 50 state committees. He only has to have enough cash to bounce from rally to rally in friendly environs while generating enough free publicity via media as he can.

“That means Clinton won’t be able to dispatch him anytime soon,” writes Jonathan Allen at Vox.

But let’s not get carried away. Mrs. Clinton remains the heavy favorite. If she doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, it will be one of the largest political upsets of the modern era.

After all, Sanders is doing OK raising money, but Clinton’s doing much better. She has taken in about $45 million since April. And that’s only for her candidate committee: She’s got a super PAC, too, which Sanders doesn’t. Both candidates decry the influence of these big-money committees on US politics, but only Sanders is actually eschewing their use.

And official endorsements – an excellent predictor of eventual victory – continue to roll in Clinton’s direction. No member of Congress has officially backed the Vermont senator, points out Mike Lillis at The Hill. But Hillary has many, including at least 26 of the liberal Democratic lawmakers in the 69-member Congressional Progressive Caucus.

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