"We have received in this campaign 2.3 million individual contributions. Two point three million," he said to applause at a town hall event here at Buena Vista College. "And that comes from a hair less than a million people. Almost a million people making contributions. Now, why is this important? Well number one, it's important because that's more contributions that have come into a campaign than any campaign in American history up into this point. So Obama did very, very well in both 2008 and 2012, but at this particular point, we are doing better."
The average contribution, he said, is less than $30. The maximum contribution to a primary campaign allowed under federal law is $2,700, while contributions less than $200 don't have to be reported with individual's names.
Sanders was citing a statistic circulated by his campaign over the weekend
that said Obama's re-election campaign in 2012 reported 2,209,636 individual contributions through December 31, 2011. CNN is unable to independently confirm the number until January, when the next round of Federal Election Commission reports are filed.
Overall, Sanders had raised nearly $40 million through September 30, the most recent period for which FEC filings are available, compared to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton's $77 million through that period.
Sanders often touts his fundraising figures on the campaign trail in Iowa. At Loras College in Dubuque in August, Sanders said his campaign had received 350,000 individual contributions, with an average contribution of $31.20. At Grinnell College in September, he said had received over 400,000 individual contributions. And at an Iowa City house party in October, he noted he had received more than 650,000 individual contributions.
By comparison, at a campaign stop in western Iowa in late October, Sen. Ted Cruz touted over 360,000 individual contributions with an average contribution of $73. "That is the power of the grassroots," Cruz said.
Sanders is the only Democratic candidate in the race without a super PAC supplementing his fundraising efforts. It's become such a rallying cry for the Sanders campaign that "Saturday Night Live" famously lampooned him about it this fall
Sanders said that with the pace of these contributions, he's proven the pundits wrong.
"When we began this campaign, we were told by political pundits and all of the great experts out there, they said, 'Bernie, if you want to run a serious national campaign, you have to understand that it requires a whole lot of money. Otherwise it's really a futile effort. And the only way you can raise all of that money is through a super PAC,' " he said Tuesday.
"We decided not to do that. I do not represent corporate America, I don't represent the billionaire class. So we decided we don't want their money, we're not going to ask for their money. But then the question was, 'Can we turn out enough money to run a serious campaign?' Well, it turns out we can, and that with an extraordinary outpouring of support from the middle class and working families of this country, we have received 2.3 million individual contributions. And that is just mind-blowing to me."