Sanders fundraising fall signals fading hope

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Bernie Sanders’s grassroots donors appear to be losing faith in his candidacy, with the Vermont senator’s fundraising falling behind Hillary Clinton’s for the first time this year. 

In April, the Sanders campaign fundraising dropped $20 million, to $25.8 million, from his March fundraising peak of $46 million. 

Clinton’s campaign took in $26.4 million in primary funds during April, which is about steady with the previous month. 

{mosads}The April fundraising figures might be the first sign of acceptance among hardcore Sanders supporters that Clinton is the inevitable presidential nominee for Democrats.  

“I think reality is setting in,” said Joe Trippi, who as Howard Dean’s campaign manager in 2004 got firsthand experience overseeing a grassroots Democratic presidential campaign that ultimately failed. 

The race between Clinton and Sanders was “over a long time ago,” Trippi, who is neutral in 2016, said on Monday. 

“It was clear to the people who were open to seeing it, but your own supporters tend to take a lot longer to recognize reality,” Trippi said, adding that he expects Sanders’s fundraising could drop even further from April to May. 

On the eve of Tuesday’s Indiana primary, Sanders was about 300 pledged delegates behind Clinton — and nearly 800 behind when unbound superdelegates are added to the total — meaning he needs overwhelming victories across the remaining states to even have a hope of beating the former first lady.  

Sanders’s fundraising plunge is what happens in any losing presidential campaign, Trippi said, but his cash drop has taken much longer than what has happened to candidates in previous cycles because he has amassed an enormous internet army of hardcore followers.  

Thanks to his internet database, Sanders is still raising an astonishing amount of money for a candidate who is in a distant second this late in the primary cycle, and it appears likely that the Vermont senator will have enough cash to fight Clinton all the way to July’s convention, as he has promised to do.

Sanders’s “true believers” may never stop giving, but a $20 million monthly drop may signify something larger about the Democratic electorate, said Kenneth Christensen, a longtime Democratic fundraiser who is working for neither presidential candidate but supports Clinton and believes it’s certain she will win the nomination. 

“If the donors feel that the inevitability has already been written, then obviously you’re going to have a fall-off in fundraising,” Christensen told The Hill in a telephone interview on Monday. 

Christensen said the Sanders team’s recent announcement of layoffs of several hundred campaign staff also “sends a clear signal that you’re winding down.” 

Sanders’s spokeswoman Symone Sanders pushed back against that interpretation of events and said the campaign was “right-sizing,” and that the layoffs had “nothing to do with money drying up.” She added that the campaign is “on track” to compete all the way to victory at the Democratic convention.

“Our fundraising numbers were astronomical over the last five months,” she said. “The momentum is there. People aren’t losing hope.” 

Sanders’s top strategist, Tad Devine, told The Hill on Monday that the Sanders campaign would fight all the way to the convention and would keep pushing its message that America has a corrupt campaign finance system and that Sanders is the only candidate who can believably change it. 

“Yes, sure the money does ebb and flow,” Devine said in a telephone interview. “But I hope and expect that in the weeks ahead, as we run off a string of victories, people will want this campaign to continue all the way to the convention.”

“I feel good about the fundraising … I disagree that this is the beginning of something that will spiral down.”

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