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Despite strong start, Buttigieg seeks $13 million for Mar. 3

Democratic presidential candidate and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg takes questions from students at the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future town hall in Los Angeles Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Democratic presidential candidate and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg takes questions from students at the USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future town hall in Los Angeles Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

DES MOINES, Iowa – Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says he needs to raise $13 million to stay competitive through the 14-state Super Tuesday contests on March 3, despite strong finishes in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

The tricky financial picture for one of the surprise candidates of 2020 comes as the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, reported Thursday that he spent more than twice as much as he brought in during January, even as he was simultaneously ramping up for the Iowa and New Hampshire contests.

But the Iowa Democratic Party's debacle in reporting results may have dampened what Buttigieg could have expected to raise immediately after Iowa. Buttigieg ended with a near-tie in Iowa with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has fielded a strong organization and fundraising this cycle after competing strongly against Hillary Clinton for the 2016 presidential nomination.

“The Iowa deal took some luster off what would have been a great night and a great week,” said Bobby Mandell, a Florida lawyer among Buttigieg's most influential donors. “I know he did fine that week, but not as well as he could have done, had he been able to claim outright victory."

Mandell says he and Buttigieg's donors remain upbeat and committed as the candidate squeezes fundraising events in Nevada ahead of the Saturday caucuses there, and campaign and fundraising jaunts to California, the most delegate-rich prize in the March 3 sweepstakes.

The pace rapidly quickens after Nevada, as Buttigieg races from Nevada to Colorado and Virginia, important Super Tuesday states, before spending most of next week in South Carolina. Buttigieg's campaign in South Carolina must show signs of support from African American voters who make up a majority of that state's Feb. 29 primary electorate.

In the Super Tuesday primaries, Buttigieg faces free-spending billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who did not compete in the first four nominating contests, but has advertised heavily.

No longer fighting solely to distinguish himself chiefly from Sanders, Buttigieg told donors in the $13-million appeal Thursday, “We are now also up against a billionaire who is throwing colossal sums of money on television instead of doing the work of campaigning."

Buttigieg is scheduled to headline three fundraisers before March 3, aides said.

Still, Buttigieg said Thursday he had raised $11 million to date in February, adding to the $6 million in contributions his campaign reported receiving in January. However, Buttigieg spent $14 million in January, an investment he'd hoped would reap heavily from beating expectations in Iowa. He had only $6.6 million in the bank at the end of the month.

The Iowa Democratic Party, which ran the leadoff caucuses, failed to report complete results for three days, the result of a failure of an electronic reporting program as well as other problems. The Associated Press has not yet declared a winner in the contest, which remains under review by state and national party officials.

Buttigieg began his climb into the top tier of the 2020 Democratic field last summer after raising nearly $25 million in the second quarter of 2019, part of a $75-million total he raised last year.