Small-Dollar Donor Mindset Helps Long-Shot Candidates Cash In

Daniel Moughon, an insurance salesman from Fort Worth, Texas, said he knew long shot Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina was special after listening to one of her early Iowa speeches. He's donated to her 10 times since then. 

Moughon is not giving millions, though. He's not even giving thousands. 

In fact, he has added just $273 to the former Hewlett-Packard CEO's campaign coffers through small donations ranging from $7 up to $100. 

Why Fiorina? "Well, one, you can't trust elected Republicans, they've let us down time after time," Moughon said. "Carly Fiorina has a clear message. She's a true outsider and a true proven leader."

It's not a lot of money, but he and others like him account for 45 percent of the $1.7 million Fiorina's campaign has raised so far, according to the Federal Election Commission. And Fiorina is not the only presidential long shot who is doing well with small-dollar donors this campaign season.

By end of the last filing period, June 30, Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont had raised $13.6 million, over 80 percent of which came from donations of $200 or less. Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson's campaign had raised $10.6 million, three quarters of which came from similarly small donations, according to the Federal Election Commission.

While dollars flowed into Fiorina's and Carson's campaigns amid low polling earlier this summer and continue to do so, an array of GOP strategists and political scientists say the two outsider candidates don't stand much of a shot at actually being the Republican presidential nominee.

"Let's put it this way-- the last time someone who's never held public office won the presidency, let alone the nomination, was [Dwight] Eisenhower," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican commentator and adviser to Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. 

O'Connell said that while Fiorina and Carson tap into a group of conservatives who are fed up with Washington, some political experience is necessary. 

"Republicans are more about ideology than a lot of other things, but they also like to see someone have a track record," O'Connell said.

Read more from Emily Hoerner and Phoebe Tollefson at U.S. News & World Report 

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