Biden, rivals face heavy pressure to raise big bucks in second quarter

Biden, rivals face heavy pressure to raise big bucks in second quarter
© Greg Nash

Democratic presidential candidates are making a massive fundraising push in the next few weeks, hoping to show big numbers at the end of the second quarter in June that would give their candidacies momentum going forward. 

It’s a critical moment for a number of campaigns struggling to break through in a stacked field. 

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“There was so much attention placed on how well candidates did in the first quarter, but this quarter is a million times more important,” said one Democratic bundler. “It’s all about momentum.” 

Democrats will be closely watching the numbers for former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden jokes he's ready for a push-up competition with Trump Biden says his presidency is not 'a third term of Obama' Biden knocks Trump on tweets about 'smart as hell' Ocasio-Cortez MORE, the clear front-runner in the race, as well as Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' Trump says administration will 'take a look' after Thiel raises concerns about Google, China Thiel calls Warren the most 'dangerous' Democratic candidate MORE (Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris slams DOJ decision not to charge police in Eric Garner's death Harris vows to 'put people over profit' in prescription drug plan The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet MORE (Calif.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race South Bend police officer resigns after killing of black man MORE. 

All of these contenders face unique challenges. 

Biden had impressive first-day fundraising totaling $6.3 million and has surprised many with his strong start in the race. But he has consistently faced questions about his ability to raise funds and the overall excitement behind his campaign.  

Warren is seen as a candidate with some momentum in the race, but her first quarter numbers were seen as disappointing by some observers.

Buttigieg and O’Rourke have both impressed with their fundraising, but their trajectories have been different. O’Rourke is facing questions about a sluggish start to his campaign, while observers wonder if Buttigieg can kick his campaign into a new gear. 

“Can Biden show that he not only started strong with $6 million but stayed strong throughout the quarter? Can Beto show that there’s still some buzz around his campaign?” the bundler wondered. “This is when it matters, and this is when fundraisers start paying attention.”   

Eric Jotkoff, a Democratic strategist, said the numbers “will give us a sense of the overall horse race.” 

“It will provide a clear snapshot of each of the campaigns,” he said.  

Biden, Harris and O’Rourke are all traveling to New York for fundraisers hosted by major Democratic bundlers.  

Biden is expected to be at the center of at least three fundraisers on June 17 and 18 — two dinners and a breakfast — according to two sources familiar with the plans. 

Harris is expected to be in the Big Apple on June 18 for a dinner held in her honor, the sources say, while O’Rourke will travel to New York for a fundraising dinner on June 12, one source said.  

Buttigieg will be the guest of honor at a fundraising luncheon on June 17 hosted by longtime Democratic donor Beth Dozoretz, a top fundraiser for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhy Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm MORE, according to a source.  

The mayor will make the New York stop after a string of fundraising events in Washington beginning on June 12. Two of the events are grass-roots fundraisers aimed at building support and enthusiasm with young professionals where a minimum contribution of $25 is suggested.  

Democrats say much interest will be paid to Buttigieg, particularly after the dark-horse candidate raised $7 million in the first quarter. That put him in the top tier of candidates. 

 “Can he repeat that?” one Democratic strategist said. “All signs say he should and will — but the numbers won’t lie.” 

Other candidates, including Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockFundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race Inslee raises over million in second quarter Moulton: Trump voters 'know that he's an a--hole' MORE and Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race Inslee raises over million in second quarter MORE (Colo.), are also expected to do New York swings, according to sources.  

Candidates are increasingly turning to the Wall Street crowd for assistance, a 180-degree spin for some candidates. 

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In the early days of his campaign, O’Rourke said he had “no large-dollar fundraisers planned, and I don’t plan to do them.” 

But the former congressman has changed course. In addition to the fundraising event held later this month for O’Rourke, he has held a reception for donors who contributed $25,000 and less. He has also been in touch with major Democratic donors hoping they will make future investments in his campaign. 

Candidates are partly feeling the pinch because of the Democratic National Committee’s decision to turn up the heat ahead of the third debate in September. 

To qualify for that debate, candidates will need 130,000 donors, an increase from the 65,000 needed for the first two debates.  

“It is definitely do or die time,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist. “If you can’t pay, you can’t play.”

Two of the top-tier candidates, Warren and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' Sanders slams decision not to charge officer who killed Eric Garner Cardi B says voters let Bernie Sanders down MORE (I-Vt.), have made it known they will not be accepting money from high-dollar fundraisers.  

Sanders — whose campaign emails end with “paid for by Bernie 2020 not the billionaires” — took a veiled swipe at Biden last week in a fundraising email. 

“I am not going to Nevada to attend a fundraiser hosted by a corporate CEO on the Las Vegas strip,” he wrote. “I am going to Nevada to attend a rally with supporters and a town hall on immigration.”  

Biden recently held a fundraiser on the Last Vegas Strip co-hosted by MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren and top executives of William Hill. He also held a fundraising event in Los Angeles, where he raked in $700,000 in one day. The former vice president is also expected to head back to the West Coast in late June for events in San Francisco and Silicon Valley — tapping into a critical donor network. 

The fundraising work shows the importance to Biden of having a big second-quarter number. 

“I think he has the most at stake,” one fundraiser said about Biden. “If he doesn’t come in very strong in the second quarter, he’ll have a tougher road ahead.”