NC residents make their Democratic presidential picks with their wallets

With the 2020 presidential primary still months away, North Carolinians are already voting — with their wallets.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who continues to lead in national polls, has raised more money in the North Carolina than any of his Democratic rivals.

And South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who raised more nationally than any Democrat in the last three months, took in more from North Carolina than anybody but Biden.

Those are the findings of a McClatchy analysis of new reports filed with the Federal Election Commission that looked at money raised in the Carolinas and other key states.

It also showed lackluster North Carolina fundraising for many of the two-dozen Democratic candidates, reflecting their poor national performance in polls and fundraising. Politico reported that 11 candidates spent more than they raised during the last three months.

North Carolinians have given Democratic candidates a total of just over $1 million. They’ve given President Donald Trump $1.6 million.

As across the country, there was a wide disparity between candidates in North Carolina. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, for example, had more than 500 contributors. New York Mayor Bill De Blasio had just one, a retired businessman from Pittsboro.

“There’s a correlation between fundraising and support,” said David McLennan, a political scientist at Meredith College. “Fundraising builds support and support brings in more money.”

North Carolina holds its 2020 contest with more than a dozen other “Super Tuesday” states on March 3. That’s earlier than ever and just three days after the South Carolina primary.

According to the New York Times, five Democratic candidates raised three out of every four dollars raised by the entire field. Those same five led the fundraising in North Carolina.

Biden raised nearly $131,000; Buttigieg, $124,000; Sanders about $103,000; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, $84,000; and Sen. Kamala Harris of California, nearly $50,000.

In South Carolina, Biden and Buttigieg lapped their rivals. There Biden raised $129,000 and Buttigieg $112,000. Nobody else raised more than $30,000.

To put things in perspective, Sanders has raised $46 million since 2017 nationally, according to the FEC. President Donald Trump has raised $124 million.

Why they gave

Laura Silvestri had never contributed to a political candidate. But the Realtor from Hillsborough gave Buttigieg $625.

“Pete inspires me in a level I’ve never experienced before,” she says. “He’s tying in a level of compassion to politics . . . Pete has a voice that is clear, eloquent and inclusive.

Buttigieg also appealed to Wilmington lawyer Andrew McVey.

“We believe he’s the smartest person in the room,” McVey says, “And he’s filled with compassion and empathy. (We) believe he’d be a really good opportunity to turn this country around. He has restored my faith in the political system. He’s . . . the real deal.”

Biden got support from more than 200 N.C. donors, including former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and his wife, Crandall of Charlotte. He also got a contribution from Robert Patterson of Charlotte, a former high school teammate in Delaware. They played baseball, football and basketball together.

Patterson, 76, says he believes Biden can beat Trump, if he gets that far.

“The question is, can he survive in the Democratic dogfight?” he says. “I worry some about that.”

Sanders has received hundreds of small donations from North Carolina. Bob Baldwin, a musician and music teacher from Cary, gave in increments as low as $1.

The two biggest reasons, he says, are Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all” and his position on the environment.

“He seems to be the only candidate who understands the gravity of climate change,” says Baldwin, 46. “If we don’t get that addressed none of these other issues are going to matter in a few years.”

Beth Monaghan, 59, is a Charlotte Republican who was impressed by Harris after the candidate debate.

“She’s poised, articulate, fierce — all while owning her femininity,” says Mongahan, who gave Harris $250. Monaghan, who ran unsuccessfully against GOP state Sen. Dan Bishop last year, also donated to Warren and Buttigieg. “I would love to see Kamala and Mayor Pete on the ticket,” she says.

Jay Brenman, an Orange County teacher, gave to Warren. He likes her ideas — she’s known for her detailed policy proposals — and disagrees with those who don’t believe she can beat Trump. “2016 kind of exposed the whole electability stuff as complete nonsense,” says Brenman, 48.

A lower tier

In North Carolina, as across the country, there’s a clear lower tier in the Democratic field.

Three U.S. senators — Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — each raised less than $12,000 in North Carolina. That was less than writer Marianne Williamson, who raised nearly $14,000 in the state.

Gillibrand has just 11 N.C. donors. But that was more than a half-dozen Democrats: Texas Rep. Julian Castro, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Rep. Seth Mouton of Massachusetts, Rep Tim Ryan of Ohio, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and de Blasio.

Pittsboro’s Hans Henning, 70, is the New York mayor’s sole N.C. donor.

Henning, a retired businessman, believes de Blasio could address problems like economic inequality better than other Democrats. He also says the mayor is tough enough to take on his fellow New Yorker.

“He’s kind of a domineering personality, just like Trump,” Henning says.

Who raised what?

Here’s how much the Democratic candidates have raised in North Carolina:

Joe Biden: $130,916

Pete Buttigieg: $124,196

Bernie Sanders: $102,518

Elizabeth Warren: $84,265

Kamala Harris: $49,663

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock: $26,923

Beto O’Rourke, $19,669

Marianne illiamson: $13,872

Cory Booker: $11,831

Amy Klobuchar: $11,691

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii: $5,795

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee: $4,318

Businessman Andrew Yang: $4,183

Kirsten illibrand: $3,586

John Hickenlooper: $2,155

Julian Castro: $1,795

Seth Moulton: $1,620

Tim Ryan: $1,250

Billl de Blasio: $300

John Delaney: $195