"Thank you to everyone who's helping to build the largest grassroots campaign this country has ever seen, funded completely by people — not PACs, not lobbyists, not corporations and not special interests," O'Rourke told reporters in Center Line, a Detroit suburb. "It's one of the best ways to bring the country together to make sure that we are listening to one another and not that entrenchment of wealth and power and privilege that defines so much of our politics from before."
O'Rourke raised an eye-popping $80 million in grassroots donations last year in his failed U.S. Senate race in Texas against incumbent Republican Ted Cruz, all while largely avoiding money from PACs. His early fundraising numbers in the presidential contest will be seen as an initial signal of whether his popularity during the Senate campaign will carry over to his White House bid.
He said Monday he didn't know the average donation to his presidential campaign, but added without providing evidence, "I just know that people contributed from every state in the union."
The new figures set O'Rourke and Sanders apart from the rest of the Democratic field in launch day fundraising. California Sen. Kamala Harris reported raising $1.5 million in the 24 hours after she launched her campaign in January. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar reported raising $1 million in the 48 hours after launching her campaign in February.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said three days after starting his presidential campaign this month that he had raised more than $1 million, a notable haul for a governor less widely known than many of his competitors in a field dominated by senators. And former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he reached $1 million within 48 hours of announcing his White House bid at the beginning of this month.
Sanders has set the pace for 2020 grassroots donations. Aided by the $6 million he pulled in on his first day as a candidate, he took in more than $10 million in the first week, overwhelmingly from small donors.
O'Rourke, asked last week if he thought he would top Sanders, said only, "We'll see."