Sanders Campaign Has Spent 50 Percent More Than Clinton In 2016

Campaign gear for sale before a campaign rally for Bernie Sanders in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in February. (Getty Images)
Campaign gear for sale before a campaign rally for Bernie Sanders in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in February. (Getty Images)

With Bernie Sanders lopping hundreds of staffers from his campaign this week, it's easy to forget he has outraised and outspent Hillary Clinton every month this year. And not by just a little.

Sanders described his campaign as the "underdog" early on, but it certainly hasn't been the case the past three months. Federal Election Commission reports for January, February and March of 2016 show Sanders outspending Clinton by more than 50 percent, $121.6 million to $80.2 million.

We know where those additional Bernie dollars came from: legions of small donors. The Campaign Finance Institute calculated that in February, the Sanders campaign raised 56 percent of his money from donors contributing $200 or less and 12 percent from donors giving 1,000 or more. Corresponding numbers for Clinton are 21 and 64 percent.

So how did Sanders spend all those Bernie dollars? NPR decided to focus on the month of March, which had the latest data available and was the most intense month of the primary season, with balloting in 28 states. Here's what we found:

  • Money raised
    - Sanders: $45.96 million
    - Clinton: $26.83 million
  • Money spent
    - Sanders: $45.71 million
    - Clinton: $28.96 million
  • Number of donors
    - Sanders: 2.2 million
    - Clinton: 1.1 million
  • Spending per vote
    - Sanders: $7.62
    - Clinton: $3.29
  • Spending per day
    - Sanders: $1.47 million
    - Clinton: $925,584
  • Monthly payroll
    - Sanders: $4.86 million
    - Clinton: $2.71 million
  • Paid staffers
    - Sanders: 896
    - Clinton: 780
  • TV ads (from Center for Public Integrity)
    - Sanders: 34,267
    - Clinton: 26,069

The massive spending advantage wasn't enough for Sanders. In March he won 912 delegates to Clinton's 1,141. Now, just two big primaries remain – California and New Jersey – along with nine smaller ones and Sanders' path to Democratic nomination is all but non-existent.

Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs, announcing the layoffs, issued a statement that the campaign "will continue to have a strong and dedicated staff of more than 300 workers who are going to help us win in California and other contests still to come." He said the campaign "believes that we have a path toward victory."

Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said, in an email to NPR, that they've always tried to "make smart, targeted investments and be efficient with our spending." He said, "The most important factor in this race isn't money," it's how voters respond to Clinton's policies and plans.

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