Democratic presidential front-runner Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the US, February 29, 2020. Picture: ERIC BARADAT / AFP
Democratic presidential front-runner Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the US, February 29, 2020. Picture: ERIC BARADAT / AFP

Washington/Selma — Democratic presidential front-runner Bernie Sanders raised $46.5m in February, his campaign says, and will launch new television ads in nine states with primaries later in March, after Super Tuesday's contests.

The announcement came the day after former vice-president Joe Biden scored a decisive victory over Sanders in South Carolina. That was the fourth nominating contest in the Democratic race to pick a challenger to Republican President Donald Trump in the November 3 election.

Meanwhile, rival Elizabeth Warren, who struggled to a fifth-place finish in South Carolina, raised more than $29m in February, her campaign manager Roger Lau said in a memo to supporters. That figure, driven by a pair of strong debate performances this month, is more than Warren’s previous total for any quarter.

The huge fundraising haul for Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, came from more than 2.2-million donations and surpassed what any Democratic candidate had raised in any full three-month quarter in 2019.

Looking to reclaim momentum after the South Carolina result, the Sanders campaign said he had raised $4.5m on Saturday alone, making it the best fundraising day since he launched his campaign.

“The senator's multigenerational, multiracial working class coalition keeps fuelling his campaign for transformational change a few bucks at a time,” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, said.

Sanders and Warren were the first of the seven Democrats still competing for the nomination to report the amount of money they had raised in February.

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, is self-funding his campaign and has spent a half-billion dollars to compete in the nominating contests beginning in March.

After South Carolina, the race for the Democratic nomination is entering a new and more urgent phase. On March 3, known as “Super Tuesday”, 14 states will hold elections and award one-third of the available delegates that determine the eventual nominee; 10 more states vote in the subsequent two weeks.

The Sanders campaign is already airing TV commercials in 12 Super Tuesday states and announced it is adding TV advertising time in Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and Washington, which hold nominating contests on March 10. It will also buy ads in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio, which hold contests on March 17.

The donations in February bring Sanders’s total haul since he entered the race to $167m, the campaign said.

Warren’s campaign manager, Lau, said the money raised in February had allowed the campaign to increase its media spending in Super Tuesday states as well as every state that votes later in March, along with Wisconsin, which votes in April.

In his memo, Lau argued that no candidate has a clear path to an outright majority of delegates and said Warren was well positioned to emerge as the party’s choice at the convention in July.

If no candidate has a majority of delegates on the convention’s first ballot, the nominating battle could turn into a messy floor fight between contenders seeking to pull support from one another.

“We're in this race for the long haul,” he wrote. “We believe that Super Tuesday will greatly winnow this field and it will become clear that only a few candidates will have a viable path to the Democratic nomination — and Elizabeth Warren will be one of them.”

Meanwhile, five Democratic presidential contenders were expected to mark the anniversary of a landmark civil rights march in Alabama on Sunday, the day after strong African-American support powered Biden to a resounding victory in South Carolina.

The candidates will travel to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 55th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday”, when civil rights marchers were stopped and beaten by state troopers and local police while crossing a bridge in Selma.

Alabama is one of 14 states holding Super Tuesday contests.

Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren will attend the annual celebration of the march, one of the country's biggest civil rights events, and several will participate later in the day in a candidate forum.

Biden’s dominant South Carolina win resurrected his struggling campaign and put the former vice-president in position to say he is the moderate alternative to Sanders, the front-runner after strong performances in the first three contests.

Biden immediately took aim at Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont and self-described democratic socialist whose surging campaign and calls for a political revolution have rattled a Democratic establishment worried he is too far left to beat Trump in November.

“Democrats want a nominee who is a Democrat,” Biden told cheering supporters in Columbia, South Carolina, in a jab at Sanders. “Win big or lose, that’s the choice. Most Americans don’t want the promise of a revolution. They want more than promises they want results.”

With the South Carolina results included, Sanders leads in the overall national delegate count with 56 and Biden is second with 51, with another seven South Carolina delegates yet to be allocated. A candidate will need at least 1,991 delegates to win the nomination outright at the party’s convention in July.

Reuters

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