Bernie Sanders may go down as the best panhandler of the internet in history. He set a record for donations from our state through May. He was so good even Donald Trump is starting to copy him.
Bernie Sanders is still not going to be president, unless something even crazier happens. But he will go down as maybe the best email marketer in history.
Through the end of May in our state, the Vermont democratic socialist had attracted more than 110,000 individual donations. That’s by far the record here for donations though a presidential- primary season.
In comparison, Hillary Clinton has 30,000 donations to date from our state, according to Federal Election Commission data. When Barack Obama was on his way to setting the state record for total fundraising here in 2012, through May he had gotten about 29,000 Washington donations.
Donald Trump has 314.
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That’s not a misprint. About the same number of people from our state have donated to Trump in a year as Bernie Sanders averaged per day.
Now Trump didn’t ask for help, you might be saying. True, but he is now.
On Tuesday, suddenly I got two fundraising pitches from Trump.
“This is the first fundraising email I have ever sent on behalf of my campaign. That’s right. The FIRST ONE,” Trump wrote (just in case you didn’t get it, the ALL CAPS words were also underlined).
Trump added it’s going to be “the most successful introductory fundraising email in modern political history.”
We’ll see. Says one of the only 17 people in Seattle who has written Trump a check: “I’m glad to see him finally doing this. It took him too long.”
I cold-called a local Trump supporter who said he wouldn’t talk to me unless I kept him anonymous. He said he’d probably be fired if his co-workers learned he backed Trump. I told him it’s illegal in Seattle to fire someone for political ideology, but he wasn’t buying it. (If you were a Trump supporter in Seattle, would you?)
I asked him what it’s like being a Trump donor. He said he sent in “about a hundred dollars” using the Trump website donate button, because he likes Trump’s trade and immigration stances. And then was surprised when that was it — he didn’t hear much from the Trump campaign again.
“I was a little worried I was going to get hit up constantly for cash,” he said. “But I don’t think they’ve sent me three emails all spring. Now they’re saying he’s out of money. I’m sitting here thinking: ‘No kidding.’ ”
The donor said he did get a Trump fundraising email over the weekend, as well as other letters from committees supporting Trump. But the Trump operation itself barely seemed to exist.
Sanders, on the other hand, often sent out at least two short calls for money or volunteers every day. On big primary days, especially if he won, he’d send out four or five. It sounds annoying, but they kept it short and never asked for much beyond the campaign’s famous $27.
This panhandling the internet added up to an incredible $220 million raised, nationwide (Sanders led all candidates from both parties in fundraising in Washington, with $5.2 million). He got the most donors ever for a primary campaign — more than 7 million nationally (this includes those who gave less than $200 and so aren’t reported by name to the FEC). Marketing gurus dubbed Sanders’ team “some of the best marketers in the world” and “content marketing kings.”
Now it’s the businessman whose campaign is nearly broke. Though as others point out, the Trump campaign has paid $6 million to Trump’s own businesses, so Trump’s nest is feathered regardless.
“Our campaign is leaner and more efficient, like our government should be,” Trump said in defense of his campaign having no money.
I know I was wrong in the primaries when I said Trump’s lack of a traditional campaign would bite him. It didn’t. But here we are, four and half months before Election Day, and he not only has no apparent nationwide organization or money in the bank, but is only now learning modern politics 101, such as how to use email to rally the troops.
It leads to the irony of the year: The Donald could use some tips from the socialist on how to run his campaign more like a business.