ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Senator Bernie Sanders had a refrain during the 2016 Democratic primary. He often talked about how many people donated to his campaign.
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BERNIE SANDERS: And you know what that average contribution was? Twenty-seven dollars.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Twenty-seven dollars.
SHAPIRO: Sanders argued that showed he was leading a progressive, grassroots movement. Well, now he has competition. Today, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts announced she had outraised Sanders in the last three months. And her average donation - $28. To explain why this matters, we are joined in the studio by NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro. Hey, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Ari.
SHAPIRO: To start with the basics, how much did Elizabeth Warren raise, and how does that compare to the other major candidates?
MONTANARO: So she raised $19.1 million from April to June of this year. That's less than South Bend, Ind., Mayor Peter Buttigieg judge and former Vice President Joe Biden. But you got to realize they have been doing lots of big- and small-dollar fundraisers. Warren has not. Neither has Sanders, by the way. And she outraised him by a million dollars. You know, and he's known for his grassroots fundraising strength. There were big questions in that first quarter about Warren's campaign and how it was bloated. People were saying that she had to raise this kind of money to sustain staffers of some 300, 60% of them in early states. Well, it looks like her policy focus and that investment in staff seems to be catching on and has paid off. And this quarterly haul looks like it could help the longevity of her campaign.
SHAPIRO: OK, so big picture, Sanders comes in - Warren comes in third for fundraising. Why is it significant that she raised a million more than Sanders did?
MONTANARO: Well they're competing in that progressive lane. In 2016, the line was much clearer for Sanders. He was carrying the progressive mantle against Hillary Clinton, who is a very establishment figure. This year, he's got a lot more competition, as you said, at the outset. And what people have to realize is that before 2016, Warren was the star of the progressive left. And it looks like they're starting to remember what they really loved about her.
I mean, there are a few things that Warren's rise tactically are concerning for those close to Sanders from people I talked to today. And, you know, what you've got to watch - basically, how they're doing in Iowa and New Hampshire. Sanders basically tied in Iowa last time. He blew it out in New Hampshire in 2016. And right now, Warren is catching up to him not only nationally but also surpassing him in some state polls, too.
SHAPIRO: Lately, coverage of the race has been dominated by a rivalry between Biden and California Senator Kamala Harris. Do you think something similar is likely to develop between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren?
MONTANARO: Not exactly. I mean, if it does, it won't be out in the open. What one person close to Sanders today told me is that they're not going to attack her or draw contrasts with her unless they're the last two standing. Their view is that this is a movement. And they consider her to be one of the good guys in the fight to build a more progressive country, not just having someone who can, quote, "beat Trump."
But what they do worry about is two things. One, that either or both of them won't get 15% in the polls. They'll split the vote. And that means that their delegates won't count at convention if that happens in various states. And two, more specifically for Sanders, one person close to him said that they know when it comes to who progressives want, if they have the choice between Sanders and perhaps a progressive woman, they might go ahead with the woman like Elizabeth Warren because, you know, the - especially in 2018, we saw so many women do so well at the polls in Democratic primaries.
SHAPIRO: Just in our last few seconds, Eric Swalwell, California congressman, dropped out of the Democratic race today. Any significance to that?
MONTANARO: It shows that money and debates matter. Campaigns are expensive. And he struggled to find his footing. A lot of people are telling us they just think there are too many candidates in the race.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thank you.
MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.