Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race with one key takeaway every weekday and a wrap-up each weekend. Reminder: There are 125 days until the Iowa caucuses and 399 days until the 2020 election.
Congratulations! If you are reading this, you have survived the culmination of the third fundraising quarter of 2019, with its endless barrage of desperate emails from candidates pleading for just one more donation before time runs out.
A few sample subject lines from our inbox: “Leveling with you.” “Deadline.” “Not good.” “Final hours.” “Reaching.” “Can we finish this?”
To which we answer, Yes. Please. Make it stop. And those were just from Beto O’Rourke.
Now comes the fun part. The 2020 contenders will reveal — or, tellingly, wait to reveal — how much cash they raised during the past three months. The media will crown winners and losers, scanning the Federal Election Commission reports for evidence of small-donor enthusiasm, or its absence. And one or more of the 19 Democrats still running for president might even decide to drop out.
Here’s what we know. The fundraising deadline was midnight Monday, but the FEC disclosure won’t be posted online until the middle of the month. That means right now, it’s entirely up to the campaigns to release any numbers. As of Tuesday afternoon, only three candidates have done so: Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Cory Booker.
Sanders had the biggest haul. According to his campaign, the Vermont senator raised $25.3 million in Q3 — the largest take in a single quarter of any 2020 candidate this cycle. With 1.4 million donations, averaging just $18, that’s proof that Sanders’s army of grassroots fans remain committed to their man, and it should create at least one good news cycle at a time when reports have called him “a candidate in decline” and the polls show Sen. Elizabeth Warren vaulting into second place. The question is whether Sanders’s bank balance (he raised $18 million in each of the first two quarters of the year) signifies growing support or just amounts to a defiant gesture from the 15 to 20 percent of Democrats dead set on backing him no matter what.
Buttigieg also had a strong third quarter, which, of course, is why he immediately announced his numbers: $19.1 million from 580,000 total contributors, an increase of about 182,000 new contributors since the previous quarter, with an average contribution of $32. In a practical sense, Buttigieg, who is polling just behind Sanders at 11.3 percent in Iowa, has plenty of money to stay competitive; his campaign has been heavily investing in early-state infrastructure, opening 42 field offices in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. The problem is that in Q2 — the period when the gay, millennial South Bend, Ind., mayor first turned a lot of heads — he managed to raise $24.8 million, shocking the pundits and setting a very high bar for future FEC reports. Already the press is noting that Buttigieg has “fallen short” and asking whether the smaller haul means that enthusiasm for his bid is flagging.
As for Booker, he recently cranked the desperation up to 11 and threatened to end his campaign if he failed to collect $1.7 million in the final days of the quarter. On Monday, he announced that he had surpassed that goal and would stay in the race; on Tuesday, the campaign told reporters that, fueled by its candidate’s ultimatum, it had raised $6 million in Q3, a personal best. Booker is planning to use the money to hire 40 new staffers, open new field offices, build his email list and get on the ballot in 50 states. It remains to be seen, however, whether he will meet the polling threshold to qualify for the November debate.
Otherwise, we’re still waiting to see who raised what. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro made a Booker-like threat in a recent fundraising email, saying “if I don’t make the next debate stage, it will be the end of my campaign”; though Castro’s campaign manager later tried to walk it back, the Q3 numbers will show whether he has attracted the 165,000 donors (including 600 unique donors in each of at least 20 states) required to qualify. And while O’Rourke didn’t release any digits Tuesday, he did send an email to supporters saying “we had a great day yesterday and a great quarter” and promising to reveal “the best fundraising numbers we’ve had since the start of the campaign.”
“We have the resources to continue,” O’Rourke added.
Expect more revelations soon. Kamala Harris has struggled to keep up with the fundraising frontrunners, bringing in about half as much as Buttigieg in Q2. Did she step up in Q3? Can Elizabeth Warren continue to collect impressive amounts (more than $19 million in Q2) from small donors? Does Joe Biden have any small donors? And, finally, the question on everybody’s mind: Are people still giving money to Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan? Why?
Meanwhile, President Trump continues to have no problem collecting cash. Using the Democratic impeachment push to rile up his supporters, he just raised $8.5 million in two days — the campaign’s biggest digital haul since its June launch, according to Politico. As usual, Trump’s Q3 stats will likely dwarf any individual Democrat’s.
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