(CNN) — President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign raised more than $30 million in the first fundraising quarter of 2019 — an amount that rivals the combined fundraising haul of the top two Democrats in the first quarter and underscores his enormous financial head start over the crowded field of Democrats jockeying to face him in 2020.
Trump’s re-election effort now has a substantial $40.8 million remaining in the bank, Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s director of communications, told CNN on Sunday.
In an unprecedented move, Trump’s campaign also has merged its operations with the Republican National Committee, giving the president’s campaign operatives a leading role in guiding field operations, well ahead of the general election.
The RNC raised $45.8 million during January-to-March fundraising period and, together with Trump’s campaign and affiliated committees, started April with $82 million in available funds, the committee announced Monday.
While Trump and the RNC build a massive war chest, 18 Democrats — with more considering bids — will spend heavily to compete for their party’s nomination.
“Our prodigious fundraising is further proof of President Trump’s clear record of accomplishment on behalf of the American people,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. “The President is in a vastly stronger position at this point than any previous incumbent president running for re-election, and only continues to build momentum.”
Among Democrats, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leads fundraising with $18.2 million raised during a shorter window than Trump, 41 days. In the No. 2 fundraising slot: California Sen. Kamala Harris with $12 million.
Sanders, making his second bid for the presidency, has the biggest war chest of the Democratic field, ending March with $28 million remaining in the bank.
Trump’s “strategy is to raise as much money as possible and to control the national conversation,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor of the nonpartisan political analysis site, Inside Elections.
But Gonzales and Democratic strategists say the total fundraising picture for Democrats shows the party’s donors remain energized and will plow big sums into the general-election battle.
“I don’t think this presidential race is going to be decided by money,” Gonzales said. “The president’s going to have plenty of money, and the Democratic nominee will have plenty of money.”
The 10 Democrats who have announced first-quarter fundraising numbers so far have collected a combined $79.6 million — already surpassing the $65.6 million the entire Democratic presidential field had collected during the early months of the 2016 election cycle.
Even more Democratic totals will come Monday when candidates file reports with the Federal Election Commission.
Another sign of Democratic donor enthusiasm: South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who exceeded expectations with a $7 million first-quarter haul for his exploratory committee, raised $1 million within hours of formally launching his presidential campaign on Sunday, his spokeswoman Lis Smith announced on Twitter
“The momentum is clearly on the left,” said Jon Soltz, president of VoteVets, a progressive group. “Democratic money will consolidate” behind the party’s nominee in 2020.
Trump, who built his unorthodox 2016 campaign on online, small-dollar donors, never stopped running for office. He filed his paperwork for re-election on the day he took the oath of office in January 2017.
He continues to tap grassroots donors for support. His campaign said that nearly 99% of donations were $200 or less, with an average contribution of $34.26.
The committee said it plans to use Trump’s early financial advantage to reach tens of millions of voters to drive home pro-Trump messages while Democrats battle over their choice. And the party said it plans to spend nearly $30 million to grow its lists of supports ahead of 2020.
Trump’s campaign and affiliated committees already have drawn 100,000 new online donors this year, the RNC said.
Trump’s first-quarter haul exceeds the $21 million his campaign and affiliated committees brought in during the last three months of 2018. But it does not set records for a presidential fundraising quarter.
President Barack Obama, the last president to seek re-election, did not begin collecting money in earnest for his re-election until April 2011, and had less than $2 million in available cash at this point in the 2016 campaign. But he went on raise nearly $47 million during the first three months of actively campaigning for a second term.
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