2020 Presidential Candidates Spending the Most and Least

August 13, 2019 by Sam Stebbins

Source: Photo by Darren McCollester / Getty Images

With the 2020 presidential election looming, campaign season has begun in earnest. In the first six-months of 2019, total campaign spending by the 23 most prominent presidential hopefuls — including incumbent President Donald Trump — topped $156 million. 

Exorbitant spending on political campaigns in the United States is nothing new. Presidential campaign spending has topped $100 million for every Republican and Democratic candidate in the 21st century. The Obama campaign spent more than $700 million in the lead up to both the 2008 and 2012 elections. 

While money is not everything, it certainly does not hurt. In nearly every presidential election since 1980, the year Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter, the campaign that spent the most won the White House. The single exception is Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. And according to data from the nonpartisan campaign funding research group Center for Responsive Politics, the biggest spender in House races won in at least 86% of instances since 2000. The odds for top-spenders in the Senate are not much lower. These are the senators and representatives who raised the most money for the 2018 midterm elections.  

Spending is not necessarily the explanation for the victory, however. Campaign spending requires fundraising, and fundraising — particularly through small donations of $200 or less — can be interpreted as a proxy for popularity. With this in mind, 24/7 Wall St. ranked total spending in the first half of 2019 for 23 presidential campaigns. Not surprisingly, many of the biggest spenders are also leading in the polls. 

While a handful of candidates have raised most of their campaign funds from small individual donors, the majority of presidential hopefuls rely most heavily on big contributions from big donors. Wealthy private citizens and certain limited liability corporations often donate heavily to the campaigns of candidates they believe will protect their interests should they take office. Here is a list of the largest private donors in American politics

It is important to note that these rankings are based on official campaign spending only. They do not include spending of super political action committees — or super PACs — that may independently act on the behalf of a campaign.

Click here to see the 2020 presidential candidates spending the most and least

To identify the presidential candidates spending the most and least, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed official campaign spending between Jan. 1, 2019 and June 30, 2019. All data came from the Federal Election Commision. Data on campaign fundraising and cash on hand also came from the FEC. Cash on hand can include personal loans from the candidate to the campaign as well as transferred money from another campaign. The share of money from small donors is the percent of total fundraising that came from contributions less than $200.

Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

23. Wayne Messam
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $62,666
> Cash on hand: $31,146
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $93,813 (29.8% from small donors)
> Occupation: Mayor of Miramar, Florida

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Source: Andrew Burton / Getty Images

22. Bill de Blasio
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $359,044
> Cash on hand: $728,520
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $1.1 million (9.1% from small donors)
> Occupation: Mayor of New York City

Source: Zach Gibson / Getty Images

21. Tim Ryan
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $554,341
> Cash on hand: $335,058
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $864,759 (29.7% from small donors)
> Occupation: Congressman from Ohio

Source: Photo by Steve Pope / Getty Images

20. Steve Bullock
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $580,989
> Cash on hand: $1.5 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $2.1 million (22.4% from small donors)
> Occupation: Governor of Montana

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Source: Scott Eisen / Getty Images

19. Seth Moulton
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $1.2 million
> Cash on hand: $724,378
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $1.2 million (23.9% from small donors)
> Occupation: Congressman from Massachusetts

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

18. Michael Bennet
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $1.3 million
> Cash on hand: $2.2 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $2.8 million (23.9% from small donors)
> Occupation: Senator from Colorado

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Source: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

17. John Hickenlooper
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $2.3 million
> Cash on hand: $836,276
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $3.2 million (14.7% from small donors)
> Occupation: Former governor of Colorado

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

16. Marianne Williamson
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $2.5 million
> Cash on hand: $547,892
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $3.1 million (63.0% from small donors)
> Occupation: Self-help author

Source: Edward A. Ornelas / Getty Images

15. Julián Castro
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $3.0 million
> Cash on hand: $1.1 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $3.9 million (63.0% from small donors)
> Occupation: Former housing secretary

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Source: Win McNamee / Getty Images

14. Tulsi Gabbard
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $3.6 million
> Cash on hand: $2.4 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $3.5 million (61.1% from small donors)
> Occupation: Congresswoman from Hawaii

Source: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

13. Andrew Yang
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $3.8 million
> Cash on hand: $847,659
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $4.6 million (73.9% from small donors)
> Occupation: Businessman

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Source: David Ryder / Getty Images

12. Jay Inslee
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $4.1 million
> Cash on hand: $1.2 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $5.3 million (45.1% from small donors)
> Occupation: Governor of Washington State

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

11. Amy Klobuchar
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $6.0 million
> Cash on hand: $6.7 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $9.1 million (35.2% from small donors)
> Occupation: Senator from Minnesota

Source: Kena Betancur / Getty Images

10. Kirsten Gillibrand
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $6.7 million
> Cash on hand: $8.2 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $5.3 million (26.0% from small donors)
> Occupation: Senator from New York

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Source: Zach Gibson / Getty Images

9. Cory Booker
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $7.1 million
> Cash on hand: $5.4 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $9.5 million (21.1% from small donors)
> Occupation: Senator from New Jersey

Source: Chris Covatta / Getty Images

8. Beto O’Rourke
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $8.7 million
> Cash on hand: $5.2 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $13.0 million (55.0% from small donors)
> Occupation: Former congressman from Texas

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Source: Paras Griffin / Getty Images

7. Pete Buttigieg
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $9.7 million
> Cash on hand: $22.7 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $32.3 million (48.8% from small donors)
> Occupation: Mayor of South Bend, Indiana

Source: Theo Wargo / Getty Images

6. Joseph R. Biden Jr.
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $11.1 million
> Cash on hand: $10.9 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $22.0 million (37.9% from small donors)
> Occupation: Former vice president

Source: Al Drago / Getty Images

5. Kamala Harris
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $11.8 million
> Cash on hand: $13.3 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $23.8 million (40.9% from small donors)
> Occupation: Senator from California

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Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

4. John Delaney
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $13.0 million
> Cash on hand: $7.4 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $688,776 (21.0% from small donors)
> Occupation: Former congressman from Maryland

Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

3. Elizabeth Warren
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $15.9 million
> Cash on hand: $19.8 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $25.2 million (67.4% from small donors)
> Occupation: Senator from Massachusetts

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2. Donald J. Trump
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $19.4 million
> Cash on hand: $56.7 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $16.1 million (50.6% from small donors)
> Occupation: President, Incumbent

Source: Win McNamee / Getty Images

1. Bernie Sanders
> Campaign spending (Jan. 1 – June 30): $23.8 million
> Cash on hand: $27.4 million
> Funds raised (Jan. 1 – June 30): $36.2 million (76.9% from small donors)
> Occupation: Senator from Vermont