AILSA CHANG, HOST:
2020 is here, and along with it, the race for president begins in earnest. A month from tomorrow, Iowa Democrats hold their caucuses. But one candidate, Julian Castro, won't be there. He dropped out today. And as Castro gets out of the race, other Democrats are sharing their most recent fundraising totals.
NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro joins us to sift through all these latest developments. Hey, Domenico.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Ailsa.
CHANG: All right. So former Housing Secretary Julian Castro - he suspended his presidential campaign today. But I mean, he never really gained traction. So does his departure reshape the race in any way?
MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, not really from a standpoint of who's going to win the nomination because, you know, he was really struggling to gain traction in the polls. He was lagging behind in fundraising. And it led him to not making the last couple of debate stages. That made it pretty tough for him to get his message out. So you know, he's not really somebody who was a strong contender for the nomination at this point.
CHANG: Right. But that said, Castro did introduce some policies that got a lot of attention, like decriminalizing illegal border crossings. He was the only Latino candidate in the field. Could you say his candidacy actually had a much bigger impact than polling numbers would suggest?
MONTANARO: You know, he really talked a lot about underrepresented and underserved communities. And you noted he really pushed the field, especially on decriminalizing border crossings. For a few weeks there, it got a lot of attention. And that policy, though, we have to say - we started polling on it, and it was very unpopular, even among Democrats.
But being the only Latino in the race was notable. I mean, his departure certainly highlights a lack of diversity now at the very top of the field. Castro spoke pretty bluntly about how white Iowa and New Hampshire are, for example - those first two nominating states - and that he didn't think that they should go first. And he said so in Iowa. Let's take a listen to what he said.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JULIAN CASTRO: I'm going to tell the truth. It's time for the Democratic Party to change the way that we do our presidential nominating process. Part of the reason for that is that I don't believe that the two states that begin the process, Iowa and New Hampshire, are reflective of the diversity of our country or of our party.
MONTANARO: You know, that's not usually how you go about trying to get votes in those states - by saying that. But it's worth pointing out that voters of color are supporting some of the top candidates. Black voters, especially older voters, are saying that they prefer Joe Biden; younger ones of color and Latinos saying that they are backing Bernie Sanders.
CHANG: Well, let's talk about some of these top Democratic candidates. We have some new fundraising numbers.
CHANG: These cover the last three months of 2019, right?
CHANG: So tell us what you're seeing.
MONTANARO: So topping the field for the fourth quarter, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders raising nearly $35 million - pretty big haul - followed by former mayor of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 25 million, former Vice President Joe Biden at almost 23 million, Andrew Yang next at 17. We have not heard what Senator Elizabeth Warren's fundraising numbers are yet, which means she's not touting them, exactly. And notably here, Sanders' grassroots strength still very strong, unparalleled in the field. His average donation - $18 - and gotten some 5 million donations, way more than many of the others.
CHANG: All right. That's NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Thanks, Domenico.
MONTANARO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.