US & Canada

US election 2020: Five charts on the Democratic race to take on Trump

Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

With 12 months to go until election day, we look at who is winning the race to be the Democratic nominee for US president.

Joe Biden has been the frontrunner from the off, but in recent months his lead has begun to fade.

Recently released fundraising figures suggest the former vice-president is also struggling to raise money, pointing to a race that is far from over.

We've taken an in-depth look at those fundraising numbers, how the national polls are shaping up and what effect the debates have had.

While there are still 17 noteworthy Democrats in the race (you can see them all here), we've focused on the candidates that qualified for the most recent debate - minus Beto O'Rourke, who ended his campaign last week.

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At the moment, those 11 candidates are roughly split into three tiers:

1) Joe Biden alongside two well-known senators, Vermont's Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

2) Pete Buttigieg, the young, gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and California Senator Kamala Harris.

3) And the rest: tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, senators Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota and Cory Booker from New Jersey, Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, former Texas mayor Julian Castro, and hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer.

When you look at their polling numbers in the chart below, it's easy to see that Warren is the candidate with the momentum, coming from an average of around 5% in January to 20% in November.

Bernie Sanders remains a heavyweight contender and has hovered between 15-20% since the start of the year. Remarkably, his numbers were barely affected by news that he suffered a heart attack in early October.

Buttigieg saw an early boost after a cable news town hall forum in March and has largely held on to the support he gained. Yang, meanwhile, has been slowly building support throughout the year.

Harris has seen a couple of boosts to her poll numbers, most notably after she criticised Joe Biden's record on civil rights in the June debate, but they fell away soon after. At the moment, she looks at risk of dropping into the third tier.

The five other candidates have failed to get much traction and could well drop out before the end of the year.

Bernie still the main money man

The amount a candidate raises is no firm sign of their eventual success - Jeb Bush, for example, led the Republican money race in 2016, but was still beaten by Donald Trump.

It is, however, a useful guide to how much enthusiasm there is for their candidacy and in Bernie Sanders' case, there is still an awful lot of energy behind him.

As the chart above shows, he's raised the most money from individual donors since the start of the year, and his $25.2m haul in the third quarter was the highest quarterly total of any 2020 candidate. Joe Biden, by comparison, raised $15.7m.

Much of Sanders' power comes from the network of supporters he built during his battle with Hillary Clinton in 2016. A detailed analysis by the New York Times earlier this year showed that network stretched right across the US - whereas most candidates get the majority of their support from the states they represent.

The other thing to note is just how well Pete Buttigieg has done. He's raised $51.4m so far, $1.6m more than Elizabeth Warren and over $10m more than Joe Biden - although the former vice-president entered the race after the first quarter.

Yang Gang keeping their man in the race

Pete Buttigieg has been the unlikely star of the race so far, but relatively unknown entrepreneur Andrew Yang has also exceeded expectations.

He's qualified for all of the debates and kept pace financially with experienced senators like Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker. In fact, in the third quarter he raised nearly as much as both of them combined.

As the chart below shows, it is small donors (those giving less than $200) that are powering his campaign - mostly fuelled by a devoted internet following known as the "Yang Gang". He'll need that gang to grow offline if he wants to keep his campaign going in 2020 though.

Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren's campaigns have been boosted by small donors, but the proportion is smaller because they've also transferred funds over from their Senate campaign accounts.

The other main takeaway is that Tom Steyer is going it alone. He raised just $2m from individual donors but invested $46.7m of his own money in his campaign. Remember, he's the hedge-fund billionaire.

He has a few friends in the Democratic Party, having spent $100m to support its candidates in last year's mid-term elections, but his path to the presidency is unclear at best.

Meanwhile, Trump's war chest is still growing

While Democrats have been facing off with one another, President Trump's campaign has built up a reserve of $83.2m - more than the combined total of the three closest Democrats.

That's thanks to a record-breaking third quarter for his campaign and the Republican National Committee, who raised a joint $125m - much more than the $70m raised by Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee at the same point in 2011.

A worrying sign for Joe Biden is that he finished the third quarter with just $9m in the bank, a paltry amount for a frontrunner who is facing some strong opposition.

In a stark contrast, his closest competitors - Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg - all went into the fourth quarter of 2019 with very healthy looking balance sheets.

Warren now a firm frontrunner

The October debate saw a crowded stage of Democrats trying to land some blows on the frontrunners, and with her poll numbers rising, the main target was Elizabeth Warren.

There were strict time limits on the candidates but they were given a right of reply every time their name was mentioned by a rival - and this explains why Warren spoke for more than five minutes more than anyone else on the stage.

She was criticised several times for not being clear about how her universal healthcare plan would be paid for, particularly by Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.

She has since offered details on the funding of her plan, saying it would largely be paid for by businesses and the wealthy. But some of her rivals have already accused her numbers of not adding up.

At the moment, nine of the 12 candidates who took part in the October debate have qualified for the one later this month - but just five have qualified for the December one, as it has tougher criteria designed to narrow the field.

So where does the race go from here?

As the end of the 2019 nears, the focus starts to shift from fundraising and debates to voting.

The voting begins in February, when Democratic supporters in Iowa will be the first to take part in a series of electoral contests known as primaries and caucuses.

These take place over several months, with the party's nominee being crowned at the national convention in July.

At the moment, polling in the states that vote first - Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina - point to a very open race. In Iowa for example, Warren leads on 22% but is closely followed by Buttigieg on 17%, Biden on 16% and Sanders on 15%.

Here are the key dates in the run-up to election day:

2019

  • 20 November: Fifth debate in Georgia
  • 19 December: Sixth debate in Los Angeles

2020

  • Six more debates will be held, but dates are unknown
  • 3 February: Iowa caucuses - begins five months of voting for the Democratic candidates across the US
  • 3 March: Super Tuesday - primaries and caucuses held in more than 12 states
  • 13-16 July: Democratic National Convention - where presidential nominee is confirmed
  • 3 November: Election day

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