The Slatest

Hillary Clinton Has a Lot to Worry About Right Now

Bernie Sanders campaign rally on Sept. 14, 2015, in Manassas, Virginia.
There are a lot of potential donors in that crowd. Above, thousands of people gather to hear Bernie Sanders during a campaign rally on Sept. 14, 2015, in Manassas, Virginia.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton’s campaign continues to fight the past (her private email account) and the future (a potential Joe Biden run), but the latest quarterly fundraising deadline brought a reminder that she shouldn’t forget about the present: Bernie Sanders.

The Vermont senator on Thursday reported raising roughly $26 million—$2 million of which came in the final day—during the past three months. That total was only $2 million less than the $28 million haul that Clinton’s camp reported bringing in over the same period.

We won’t get a detailed breakdown of where all that money came from until the FEC releases filings next week, but Sanders’ campaign—which relies heavily on online donations and avoids lavish, in-person fundraising events as a point of pride—is already touting the number of small-dollar donations that went into his impressive total. According to his team, Sanders has now received more than 1.3 million donations from roughly 650,000 different individuals since joining the presidential race. That, according to the Washington Post, means Sanders crossed the 1 million contributions mark faster than Barack Obama did in either of his campaigns.

Clinton, though, still has a rather massive fundraising advantage to fall back on. Thanks to the $47.5 million she had raised during the previous quarter, Hillary has now brought in roughly $75 million since she officially declared, compared with the roughly $41 million Sanders has since he did the same. (Clinton also has the help of her affiliated super PACs, the largest of which previously reported raising $40 million during the first half of 2015.)

Still, Sanders’ surprising quarter will cause plenty of anxiety inside Hillary-land, and raise plenty of questions outside of it. A major part the argument the Clinton-backing Democratic establishment used to dismiss Bernie at the start of this year was the belief that he wouldn’t be able to raise the kind of money needed to compete in the general election. That argument won’t disappear after one strong quarter, but it certainly looks a whole lot weaker now that we know Sanders went nearly dollar for dollar with the Democratic front-runner this past summer. Making that familiar Beltway logic even more awkward for Hillary: Obama managed to do something similar in the summer of 2007 on his way to besting Clinton for the 2008 nomination.

Clinton’s camp will brush off its drop in fundraising as the result of the dog days of summer, but it’s also clear that it doesn’t want to talk about one likely contributing factor: Joe Biden and the constant chatter about his late entry into the Democratic field. Recent polls suggest that the veep would steal a not-insignificant chunk of Clinton’s support if he were to enter the race, and it stands to reason that some of those individuals are waiting until Biden has made up his mind before they decide whom to write their check to.

Hillary and her team often go out of their way to avoid talking about Biden’s presidential prospects in public, but there are increasing signs that they’re getting antsy. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Clinton’s advisers have grown “increasingly worried about the threat” a Biden campaign would pose, and have begun making moves behind the scenes to lock down superdelegates and other party power brokers as a pre-emptive strike. Meanwhile, Biden isn’t the only potential dark cloud looming on Clinton’s horizon. The former secretary of state is scheduled to testify later this month before the GOP-led House Benghazi committee, where she will be grilled on her private email account, which has dogged her campaign even before it officially became one.

Hillary, then, is stuck campaigning on multiple fronts: past, present, and future. Bernie, meanwhile, can keep forging straight ahead.