Williamsburg, Iowa—For the rural communities of Williamsburg, Conroy, Parnell, and the English Valleys in east central Iowa, the weekly Journal Tribune newspaper is the media. Not all of the media in this cable and digital age, but a vital part of it. This is where the people of Iowa County, Iowa, get the high-school football scores, reports on the upcoming state show-choir fest, and details of where they will caucus on Monday night.
On page nine of the latest edition of the Journal Tribune, they also get a half-page advertisement for Bernie Sanders, with a smiling picture of the candidate, a phone number for Democrats who want more information about caucusing, and an old-school rural populist declaration that “It’s a rigged economy backed by Wall Street banks and billionaires who buy elections.”
“The truth is, you can’t change a corrupt system by taking its money,” the bold-face statement from Sanders continues. “My campaign is powered by over 2.5 million small contributions from people like you who want to fight back.”
That statement, published Thursday in weekly papers across Iowa (where Sanders is advertising and the other candidates for the most part are not), is no longer precisely accurate.
The “2.5 million small contributions” number is now outdated. By the final weekend before Monday’s first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, the Sanders campaign had attracted more than 3 million donations.
“When we started this campaign, no one gave us a chance. Together, we proved that when Americans stand together, we could raise enough money to take on the billionaire class,” says Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver in a message to supporters.
The millions of contributions—averaging roughly $27—have given the Vermont senator’s insurgent campaign the resources that are necessary to stay in the running with the campaign of front-runner Hillary Clinton in Iowa. Clinton certainly has raised more money overall, but Sanders has held his own; in the final quarter of 2015, while Clinton took in $37 million, Sanders collected $33 million.
Money isn’t everything in politics. But when a campaign is reasonably competitive in fundraising, as the Sanders campaign has been in recent months, it can be competitive in the high-profile and highly expensive early states of a presidential race.
In the last pre-caucus poll from The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics, which was released late Saturday, Clinton retained the advantage she has held from the start in Iowa. But it is was a very narrow advantage. Clinton had 45 percent to 42 percent for Sanders. The puts the Iowa contest within the margin of error for the well-regarded poll. And with former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley holding 3 percent and 9 percent of those surveyed registering as uncommitted or undecided, the contest is now, in the words of veteran Democratic strategist David Axelrod, “as tight as it can be.”