Analysis shows Bernie Sanders with most donors and money in U.S., Western Pa.; Joe Biden still leads in polls
Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders — once again making a play for blue-collar workers — has received donations from across the country, including much of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Maps created by The New York Times show Sanders receiving a higher number of donations across Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh region — areas with concentrated populations of former steelworkers and union members — than other Democratic presidential candidates. Nationwide, Sanders so far has accumulated 746,000 individual donations for a total of $36 million — both tops among the crowded Democratic field, the newspaper reported.
Interactive maps narrow down donors and dollars for the top six Democrat candidates — Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont; U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; Pete Buttigieg, a former military officer who serves as mayor of South Bend, Ind.; U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California; former U.S. senator and Vice President Joe Biden, a Scranton native; and Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman from Texas.
A large number of Sanders donors are concentrated around Pittsburgh, with a medium concentration in Westmoreland County. Greene County also showed a larger number of donors for Sanders.
Sanders visited Pittsburgh’s Schenley Plaza in April, where about 4,500 supporters of the self-described Democratic socialist gathered. While there, he said he supports the efforts of University of Pittsburgh faculty members to form a union, which has been ongoing since 2016 under the auspice of the Pittsburgh-based United Steelworkers.
Stopping in Pennsylvania was a priority for Sanders early on, he said, after the traditionally Democratic-leaning state flipped to President Trump during the 2016 election.
“Sanders, among the progressives, is certainly working hard on sort of the working-class folk. There’s no doubt about that,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs and public affairs professor at Lancaster’s Franklin & Marshall College.
“Sanders also appeared out there earlier in the year and made a pledge he would focus on blue-collar workers, so that doesn’t surprise me on one level,” he said. “That still doesn’t mean that he’s ultimately going to win the southwestern part of our state.”
The Philadelphia area also is a big pocket of donor support for Sanders, but shifts toward Biden the closer it gets to Delaware.
Other candidates have their home-state donors: Texas gravitates to O’Rourke; Montana leans toward current Gov. Steve Bullock; and Minnesota favors U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Where they stand
Warren, who has 421,000 individual donors nationwide and $25 million raised overall, holds a small pocket of donors east of Pittsburgh and comes in behind Sanders for the highest number of donors around the city, the New York Times analysis shows. Buttigieg, with 390,000 donors and $32 million, has a small number of supporters near Cranberry. Behind Sanders, he holds most of the area north of the city.
Aside from those pockets of support for Warren and Buttigieg, Biden, who has 256,000 individual donors, has the most support behind Sanders leading into Westmoreland and surrounding counties.
Biden kicked off his presidential campaign in Pittsburgh at the Teamsters Union Local 249 hall in Lawrenceville and pledged to rebuild middle-class America through union labor.
“That’s usually the difference, because the urban areas tend to be much more progressive,” Madonna said. “That’s just a fact. The urban base in the party is going to vote for the progressive candidates, by and large.”
According to polls released by The New York Times last week, Biden held the lead with a 28% polling average and $22 million for his campaign. Sanders followed with a 15% polling average.
“It’s one thing to raise money,” Madonna said. “It’s another thing to win the bulk of the support, particularly among blue-collar workers. Of the Democrats running, Biden and (Sanders) are the two that have made much more of an overt appeal to win the working class.”
Heading into the third Democratic debate of the year, the newspaper reported that the Democratic National Committee raised the stakes, only allowing candidates to participate if they have 130,000 unique donors and at least 2% support in the polls.
The changes limit what was a field of more than two dozen candidates down to 10 or 12. Eight already make the cut — Biden, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Sanders and Warren. Close to qualifying are Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor who served as secretary of U.S. Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, and Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur and former tech executive.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Madonna said.
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .