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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 BidenSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump says impeachment lawyers were 'really good' MORE, the clear front-runner in the race, as well as Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Hillary Clinton tears open wound with her attack on Sanders MORE (Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRep. Bobby Rush endorses Bloomberg's White House bid Actor Michael Douglas endorses Bloomberg for president Democrats: McConnell impeachment trial rules a 'cover-up,' 'national disgrace' MORE (Calif.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Hillary Clinton tears open wound with her attack on Sanders 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 ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump on Clinton's Sanders comments: 'She's the one that people don't like' Hillary Clinton tears open wound with her attack on Sanders 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 BullockBrent Budowsky: Bloomberg should give billion to Democrats Key moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far Kamala Harris dropped out, but let's keep her mental health plan alive MORE and Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetWarren ad claims Trump fears her most Sanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Sanders defends vote against USMCA | China sees weakest growth in 29 years | Warren praises IRS move on student loans 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. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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 SandersSanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump on Clinton's Sanders comments: 'She's the one that people don't like' 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.”