Democrat Bernie Sanders has been able to keep relatively close to Hillary Clinton almost entirely on the support of "unitemized" campaign donations — those less than $200. People who donate more than $200 are required to list their names and occupations, and the contributions are itemized on the campaign's filings. For donations under that amount, no specific filing is needed.
As a result, all the unitemized donations get lumped together into one big line item in the Federal Eelection Commission database. That one line item could represent thousands or even millions of people by the time the election ends a year from now. If an individual gives to a campaign multiple times for a total over $200, the excess is itemized while the original $200 remains unitemized.
The Republican Party may be thought of as the party of corporate interests and big campaign donations, but even the GOP is showing interest in raising money from the little donors.
Ben Carson and Ted Cruz in particular have raised significant funds this way, at levels on par with Clinton. Sixty percent of Carson's individual contributions came from these small donors in the third quarter of 2015, down from 67 percent in the second quarter. That could mean that with his rise in the polls, he's seen as a more serious contender and thus attracting bigger checks.