WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign said Thursday the Vermont Democrat has raised $15 million since joining the race in late April, a strong total for his challenge against front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton.
About 250,000 donors have given money, giving the senator a solid foundation from which to build an insurgent campaign against Clinton and establishment Democrats.
Sanders has drawn large crowds, including about 10,000 in Madison, Wisconsin, on Wednesday night, and the fundraising amount will bolster his attempt to become a liberal alternative to Clinton. But Sanders trails by a wide margin in fundraising, with Clinton's campaign saying it has taken in $45 million since mid-April.
"I am more than aware that my opponents will be able to outspend us," Sanders said in Wisconsin. "They may have the money but we have the people. And when the people stand together, we can win."
The Sanders campaign said it had received nearly 400,000 contributions for an average donation of $33.51, and most online donations were made through the campaign's website.
Taking into account all sources of campaign revenue, including the sale of T-shirts and other merchandise, nearly 87 percent of the money came from donations of $250 or less, the campaign said. Michael Briggs, a campaign spokesman, said the totals included $1.5 million that was transferred from Sanders' Senate campaign account into the presidential campaign.
Sanders is courting the most liberal grassroots voters by running largely on a platform of reducing income inequality. His stock has risen in early states like New Hampshire and Iowa, but he still trails Clinton in early polling.
The 73-year-old democratic socialist has tried to appeal to Democrats with a message of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and increasing taxes on the wealthy and Wall Street.
His campaign operation is smaller in size compared with Clinton and his first fundraising report should be comparable to some of the larger presidential campaigns in recent years. Republican Mitt Romney, for example, raised $18.4 million in his first three months of the 2012 campaign.
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, raised $25.8 million in his first three months as a Democratic candidate for president in 2007. Obama's appeal among small donors, often giving over the Internet, helped him gain a foothold in a tough race with Clinton and helped him win the Democratic nomination.
Sanders is reaping most of his campaign cash from small donors on the Internet. But he has made a few forays into more traditional fundraising that includes bigger checks. Hollywood actress Mimi Kennedy wrote on her website that she hosted 250 people in her front yard a few weeks ago to help "the astonishingly truthful and delightfully brilliant" Sanders.
When he was still just exploring a run, he hosted a private breakfast fundraiser April 3 at the Hotel Palomar in Chicago, which had a suggested contribution of $1,000 and held similarly priced events in Austin, Texas and Los Angeles around the same time.
Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz in Washington contributed to this report.
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