The Politicus

The Other “Horse Race” In Democratic Presidential Politics: the Distasteful Money Race.


Can we agree that money in politics, especially from corporations and oligarchs, is not healthy for our democratic process?  But we have a political system that equates “free speech” with how much money you can donate to a political candidate or campaign.  Until that system changes, we are stuck with political candidates having to do the money chase.  And it does play a role in who we are going to eventually select for a Democratic nominee.  We are all glued to watching the polls, but what about that other horse race for campaign cash?  The third quarter funding reports for the FEC are due by Sept. 30th, and those reports will lift some candidates and put others, as the Washington Post likes to say, in a “death spiral.”

So who is busy smooching with the donors, especially those with deep pockets?

Former vice president Joe Biden’s campaign has tentatively arranged at least 16 post-debate fundraisers before the Sept. 30 deadline, including one here Friday and another in Dallas on Saturday. Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) has at least 17 planned. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., was scheduled to hold at least 10, including one in Dallas on Friday.

And who is not?

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), who have opted not to host fundraisers catering to wealthy patrons, are revving up their online operations to rake in smaller contributions. The Sanders campaign says it is closing in on 1 million donors and hauled in more than 13,000 contributions on a single day last week. Many Democrats anticipate Warren will also post big numbers when the reports are released in October.

And it is getting to do or die time for some campaigns, at least that is what some fundraisers state:

By Oct. 15, each candidate will have to submit a report to the Federal Election Commission detailing what they raised and spent between July and September. Those figures will be available to the public, offering a snapshot of what kind of financial shape the campaigns are in as they push toward voting in February.

Third-quarter hauls can signal to supporters and donors whether campaigns can survive the early primary contests, the first two of which could cost upward of $75 million per candidate. And they can provide a measurement of candidate enthusiasm.

Many of the party’s biggest donors and fundraisers are giving to multiple candidates to play the field or not giving at all. The campaigns’ third-quarter numbers will help bring clarity to donors who are sitting on the sidelines or who are still deciding which candidates to take off their list, fundraisers say.

“Third-quarter fundraising matters to the people at the bottom end of the totem pole. They can’t pay for buses in Iowa. There’s a practical reality here,” said Tom Nides, a longtime Democratic fundraiser who has given to at least two presidential candidates this year. “If you’re only raising $3 million to $4 million per quarter, and it takes $6 million, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that’s not sustainable.”

Emboldened is my doing.

Although they never specifically state who is on the “death watch,” the bottom end of the totem pole sounds like anyone who didn’t make the debate stage.  The Post article points out that candidates use their performance in the debates for their sales pitch to donors.  Harris was able to do this, but now some of her donors are trying to have a political intervention with her.  They claim her inability to capitalize on that performance has them concerned.  Fair or unfair, they are comparing this to telling Hillary Clinton to take the email controversy seriously.

Hey Harris supporters, I’m just reporting what the kings of cash are saying.  

But they have not given up on her yet.  And, naturally, Biden is doing well with the donors.  This was to be expected.  And many another wealthy donors are giving to Buttigieg.

Warren and Sanders are going back to their small individual donors.

What’s left unsaid, once again, are the rest.  And I would assume that most of them are on life support, or no one has stepped up to pull the plut yet.  Both the lack of cash and polls would mean the following will have the plugged pulled on them:  Bennet, Bullock, De Blasio, Gabbard, and Ryan.  Delaney has enough of his own money to waste that he will stay in the race until he is humiliated in Iowa.   

And these are the others who were not named in this Post article that may be on life support:  Booker, Castro, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, and Yang. 

Yes, it sucks that any candidate has to do the money chase.  It skews our politics.  But I don’t make the rules.