Pete Buttigieg demonstrated his staying power in the Democratic presidential race Monday by posting an eye-popping $24.8 million fundraising total for the last three months.
The South Bend, Indiana, mayor’s enriched war chest and a new poll showing a big bounce for Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California confirmed that both rank as top contenders, as the shape of the race came into sharp focus following the first debate for the Democratic hopefuls.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden remained the man to beat, with Mr. Buttigieg, Ms. Harris, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts rounding out the top tier in the crowded field.
As the first openly gay Democratic presidential candidate, Mr. Buttigieg is part of a historically diverse field of candidates that includes a half-dozen women, three black people, an Asian man and a Hispanic man.
The fundraising haul gave Mr. Buttigieg $22.6 million cash on hand for the next leg of the campaign. It guaranteed his ability to expand his operation and keep his message in front of voters, but he still needs to convert the cash into votes in the primaries.
“Campaigns are filled with peaks and valleys, but the one thing that keeps you moving forward and break through the noise is the ability to reach voters on a personal level. There’s no question that these fundraising numbers allow Mayor Buttigieg to do exactly that,” said Democratic strategist Zach Friend, a veteran of presidential campaigns for Barack Obama and John Kerry.
The $24.8 million came from more than 294,000 donors across 57 states and territories, with an average contribution of just over $47, according to the campaign.
The low amount of average donation, which is a small fraction of the $2,800 contribution limit, will allow Mr. Buttigieg to return to those donors repeatedly.
Mr. Buttigieg’s effectiveness on the debate stage helped improve his likability score by 10 points in a Morning Consult poll.
In early voting states where Mr. Buttigieg has already made a good impression, the debate confirmed that he is more than a long-shot candidate.
“Pete was pretty popular to begin with, but I think he really got on the map with his debate performance,” said Laura Hubka, chairwoman of the Democratic Party in Howard County, Iowa.
The same poll also showed Ms. Harris jumping to third place after confronting Mr. Biden in the debate about his opposition to federally mandated busing to desegregate schools in the 1970s.
Ms. Harris tied Ms. Warren at 12% support in the poll that was conducted during and after the debate. Ms. Harris was up 6 points from the same poll a week earlier, while Ms. Warren was down 1 point.
Mr. Buttigieg trailed in fourth place with 6%. Mr. Biden led the pack with 33%, followed by Mr. Sanders in second place with 19%.
In the debate, Mr. Biden refused to apologize for his long-ago position on busing and fumbled a defense, saying he had wanted local authorities to handle desegregation.
His position undercuts virtually every federal civil rights action, including the Voting Rights Act that he supported.
“That is where the federal government must step in,” Ms. Harris said. “There are moments in history where states fail to protect the civil rights of all people.”
Though he remained far in the lead, Mr. Biden shed 5 points from the same Morning Consult poll a week ago for his lowest score since entering the race in late April.
The Harris campaign announced a $2 million online fundraising burst in the 24 hours following the debate. The cash came from more than 63,000 individuals, with 58% of them making a first-time donation to her.
“We have momentum,” boasted Harris campaign spokeswoman Lily Adams.
Ms. Harris and the other campaign were not as quick as Mr. Buttigieg to release their fundraising totals.
• S.A. Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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