InsideNOVA throws a bit of a sharp jab at Prince William County Chairman Corey Stewart’s fundraising totals this week:

Records show that Stewart does have the lead in the number of donations, with 754 contributions, with 652 being $100 or less.  Gillespie did pull in 535 donations, including 367 of $100 or less. A campaign spokesman didn’t answer questions to help account for the disparity in Stewart’s claims about the number of donations.

Small-dollar contributions aside, Stewart’s fundraising pales in comparison to Gillespie’s $1.9 million haul from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2016. The former Republican National Committee chair and failed U.S. Senate candidate currently has just over $1.86 million in cash on hand, with the bulk of it coming from a $1.1 million contribution from his political action committee, Let’s Grow, Virginia!

Just to offer some perspective here, Gillespie was able to gain 367 donations under $100, while Stewart was able to amount an impressive 652 donations under $100.  Wagner came in dead last at 77, with the nascent Riggleman campaign only soliciting one gift (the natural result of a late start).

So the Stewart claim of “twice as many” ain’t quite so… but nearly so.  We rate the claim Mostly True.

Of course, Gillespie holds a $2 million COH advantage over both Stewart and Wagner at about $500,000 each.   We rate that claim as Overwhelmingly True.

…but what is notable — and this is a trend that was set by the Bolling lieutenant governor race in 2005 and 2009 respectively, are donations under $100.

Why is that so important?  Because those are grassroots donors who have invested even just a little bit into the candidate.

Ostensibly, those donors are also volunteers, door knockers, phone bankers, and the sinews of a statewide campaign.

Stewart’s campaign has certainly stumbled out of the gate by attacking Gillespie so early, along with more than a handful of social media gaffes.  All that having been said, while it is still a very early start (and we are certainly missing the Riggleman Effect in these VPAP numbers), it would appear as if Stewart is placing himself in the position to be a solid contender against Gillespie for the nomination.

…if Stewart can surmount the $1.5 million cash gap and find his footing, that is.  Not an easy task.

At this rate, Gillespie still remains the putative frontrunner by a mile.  But the early small dollar numbers?  Not quite “twice” — but significant in a certain light.