June 8, 2024

Presidential Election Fundraising: The Past and the Present

By Aadil Ahmed
@redlineproject

Politics and money have been a married pair since the invent of democracy.

Through the progression of the democracy of the USA, money has become a more and more central aspect of ensuring an election win. The Federal Election Commission tracks charts not only how much money each candidate raises, but also from which sources, such as large donations, small donations (>$200), and candidate self-funding. Over the years, the amount of money raised in these categories has soared dramatically, finally coming to a head in 2020 with a jaw-dropping $3.1 billion raised by Joe Biden against Donald Trump.

Despite the seemingly absurd figure, the amount of capital raised by candidates has slowly ballooned to reach this critical point, with the most recent previous record being set in 2008 by President Obama raising $1.1 billion against John McCain. Just 24 years prior, more realistic and digestible numbers were reached instead, such as Reagan raising $77.25 million against Mondale’s $149.2 million.

For a number of races though, money may not have been as critical as it seems. For example, The Bush-Kerry election featured a total of nearly $1 billion raised between the two candidates, with John Kerry raising $150 million more than Bush. President Bush however had the incumbent advantage, along with the nation’s sentiments on 9/11 and the war on terror. Similarly, the 2012 Obama-Romney election also featured this, with Obama holding on to his incumbent advantage and campaigning on the strengthening economy.

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