Sanders wins small donors, Trump wins endorsement from Putin
© Getty Images

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden leads, Warren and Sanders tied for second in new poll Analysis: Harris, Buttigieg and Trump lead among California donations The Hill's Morning Report: Trump walks back from 'send her back' chants MORE (I-Vt.) announced that he has received 2 million small donations, setting the stage to probably set the ultimate record for the largest number of small donations in presidential campaign history, while Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinPoll: Michelle Obama most admired woman in the world The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Mystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia MORE announced his endorsement of Republican candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCould Donald Trump and Boris Johnson be this generation's Reagan-Thatcher? Merkel backs Democratic congresswomen over Trump How China's currency manipulation cheats America on trade MORE, giving Trump the honor of being the first candidate for the nomination of a major party to win support from a Russian dictator.


While Sanders was announcing that he had reached the major milestone of 2 million small donations, he also received the endorsements of the Communications Workers of America union, and Democracy for America, a major progressive group whose founder, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), had urged members to support the candidacy of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPoll: Majority of Democratic voters happy with their choices among 2020 contenders No presidential candidate can unite the country GOP lawmakers speak out against 'send her back' chants MORE.

While Sanders is clearly an underdog in the campaign for the Democratic nomination and has been subject to a virtual media blackout in television coverage of the campaign — compared to the media's almost complete obsession to the daily doings of Trump — it would be a huge mistake to count Sanders out in the campaign.

Sanders has a fair chance of winning both the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary and if he does, he will reap continuing and gigantic waves of small donations from a donor base that is rising every day, whose members could and, in most cases will, give recurring small donations throughout the campaign.

In contrast to the authentic populism of Sanders, Trump has often spoke well of Russian strongman Putin, and in what has to be one of the strangest and revealing moments in presidential campaign history, Putin has now reciprocated the favor and expressed his great admiration for Trump.

My guess is that GOP voters in the primaries will not take kindly to the mutual praise between Trump and Putin. If a candidate such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) directly confronts Trump about his bromance with Putin, he will score big.

In the end, voters will realize that this campaign involves a tale of two populists: A candidate such as Bernie Sanders, who wins huge support from small donors and who is authentic populist, and a candidate such as Donald Trump, who may pretend to be a populist but in truth is the favored candidate of a Russian strongman who is no friend of the American people.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at