Biden's campaign was cash poor, but he seized control of the nomination anyway

US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during an election event in Delaware on March 12, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Former vice-president Joe Biden has taken command of the Democratic primary for president despite running on a shoestring budget in a contest where Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont raised more money in February alone, US$47.6 million (S$69 million), than Mr Biden had spent in his previous five months combined, new federal records show.

The latest disclosures from the Federal Election Commission reveal in stark detail just how badly Mr Biden was outspent by his rivals before a decisive victory in South Carolina on Feb 29 turned around his candidacy.

Days later, Mr Biden routed Mr Sanders and others on Super Tuesday, and he has since built a nearly insurmountable delegate lead.

Mr Biden's campaign succeeded in large part because of the overwhelming focus of Democratic voters on beating President Donald Trump and the firm belief among many that Mr Biden would be the party's strongest challenger.

Mr Biden spent only US$13.1 million last month - less than billionaire Michael Bloomberg was spending on average per day.

During the same period, Mr Sanders spent more than twice as much on digital and television ads alone as Mr Biden spent on his entire campaign operation.

In fact, Mr Biden spent the least money in February of the seven candidates who had qualified to be on the debate stage.

For the duration of the campaign, Mr Biden ranks as only the sixth-biggest spender in the Democratic field as of the end of February.

He had only US$12.1 million in the bank entering March.

Mr Trump's campaign alone - not counting his joint operations with the Republican National Committee - reported more than US$94 million still in his treasury at the end of February, more than Mr Biden had raised in total since he entered the race in April.

The coronavirus pandemic has put on hold indefinitely Mr Biden's ability to host in-person fund raisers and is widely expected to sharply slow the pace of small online donations as well.

In the Democratic race, Mr Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, had spent the most, a record-setting US$907 million.

Mr Bloomberg spent more than double the billionaire Tom Steyer (US$338 million), who spent more than double Mr Sanders (US$163 million), who spent more than double Mr Biden (US$76 million).

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (US$111 million) and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana (US$91 million), also both had spent more than Mr Biden by the end of February.

All but Mr Sanders have since dropped out.

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