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Booker aide sounds alarm about campaign's funding

Booker aide sounds alarm about campaign's funding
© Aaron Schwartz

An aide for Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerBush testifies before Congress about racist treatment Black birthing people face during childbirth, pregnancy Tim Scott sparks buzz in crowded field of White House hopefuls Never underestimate Joe Biden MORE’s (D-N.J.) presidential campaign sounded the alarm about lagging fundraising numbers on Saturday, saying the campaign must haul in nearly $2 million by the end of the month to have a path forward in the Democratic race.

Booker campaign manager Addisu Demissie wrote in a memo that the senator's campaign did not see an expected uptick in fundraising in the early part of September, setting it behind a handful of top-tier contenders who had raked in more money.

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“We have reached a critical moment, and time is running out. It’s now or never,” Demissie wrote to staff and supporters. “Cory 2020 needs to raise an additional $1.7 million by September 30 to be in a position to build the organization necessary to continue competing for the nomination. Without a fundraising surge to close out this quarter, we do not see a legitimate long-term path forward.”

In a call with reporters on Saturday, Demissie similarly suggested that Booker would end his presidential bid if he's unable to raise the $1.7 million his campaign needs by the Sept. 30 fundraising deadline.

"If we’re not able to build the campaign organization, which means raise the money that we need to win the nomination, Cory’s not going to continue running and consuming resources," DeMissie said.

But DeMissie also insisted that the campaign is "not out of money, nor are we at risk of running out of money." Instead, he said, "It's about the trajectory of the fundraising."

"The point that we’re trying to make very clearly is the final field that is going to be offered to the Democratic Party … is being determined now in September," he said.

Booker, long seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party since his tenure as Newark, N.J., mayor, launched his 2020 bid in February, joining what would quickly become a crowded field with former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to meet with 6 GOP senators next week Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit On The Money: Five takeaways on a surprisingly poor jobs report | GOP targets jobless aid after lackluster April gain MORE and several other sitting senators and governors.

However, early efforts to build out his campaign operations in critical primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire have taken a toll on Booker's campaign coffers.

Demissie wrote in the memo that the campaign has enough funds to maintain its current pace but hinted that Booker will not stay in the race if he can’t expand his operations.

“If our campaign is not in a financial position to grow, he’s not going to continue to consume resources and attention that can be used to focus on beating Donald TrumpDonald TrumpDemocrats, activists blast reported Trump DOJ effort to get journalists' phone records Arizona secretary of state gets security detail over death threats surrounding election audit Trump admin got phone records of WaPo reporters covering Russia probe: report MORE, which needs to be everyone’s first priority in this election,” he wrote.

The memo cited “only four campaigns” that have the money to create a long enough runway to head into the general election, seeming to refer to Biden, Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP is consumed by Trump conspiracy theories Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders Sanders on Cheney drama: GOP is an 'anti-democratic cult' MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDebate over ICBMs: Will 'defund our defenses' be next? Manchin on collision course with Warren, Sanders Hillicon Valley: Broadband companies funded fake net neutrality comments, investigation finds | Twitter rolls out tip feature | Google to adopt 'hybrid work week' MORE (D-Mass.), and South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete Buttigieg'Funky Academic:' Public has been 'groomed to measure progress by firsts' Biden administration in talks with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti for India ambassador post: reports Business groups target moderate Democrats on Biden tax plans MORE (D).

“We aren’t among them today, but with your help, we can be,” the memo added.

In many ways, the memo appeared to be a typical fundraising pitch. Demissie did not elaborate on how the campaign arrived at the $1.7 million figure and did not provide a timeline for Booker's potential exit from the race.

What's more, the New Jersey senator has already qualified for the fourth Democratic primary debate on Oct. 15 — more than two weeks after the third-quarter fundraising deadline — and it's unlikely that he would drop out before then.

In the call with reporters, Demissie repeatedly asserted that Booker not only could but will win the Democratic nomination in 2020 and dismissed national polls that show him hovering in the low single digits.

He said that Booker had the disproportionate support of Democratic Party activists in early primary and caucus states and predicted that a strong finish in the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3 would upend polling data that shows him trailing several other candidates.

"National polls are literally nothing," Demissie said. "The moment that the Iowa caucuses happen on Feb. 3, whatever happens in Iowa will literally shake things up overnight."

The Booker campaign memo noted that Booker raised $1.4 million in the final 10 days of March to end 2019’s first quarter and that “other important voices in the field” are facing similar issues. 

“If we do hit our goal, we believe we will ultimately win the nomination because of the early investments we made in talent and infrastructure,” Demissie said. “But now is the time to build upon what we’ve done, not to sit back and be complacent.” 

Campaigns often sound the alarm near the end of a fundraising quarter to juice up donations in order to try to roll out an impressive haul. However, Demissie maintained that while Booker's campaign is indeed looking to boost its war chest, the memo was not a "stunt."

The memo comes amid looming new guidelines from the Democratic National Committee regarding criteria to qualify for the party's November and December debates.

While Booker has already qualified for the October debate, a narrowing of the criteria could leave him off the stage later this year, a prospect that could see the campaign’s fundraising dry up even further.

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandAustin tight lipped on whether to take sexual assault cases out of commanders' hands Gillibrand touts legislation to lower drug costs: This idea 'is deeply bipartisan' A bipartisan effort to prevent the scourge of sexual assault in the armed forces MORE (D-N.Y.) dropped out of the race after it became clear she would not make the September debate stage, and New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNew York area will lift capacity restrictions May 19 NYC 24-hour subway service resumes May 17 Schumer demands restoration of 24-hour New York subway service MORE (D) withdrew from the primary Friday after finding no path toward securing a spot at the October debate.

Booker and a slate of other 2020 contenders will gather at the Polk County Democrats’ annual Steak Fry in Iowa on Saturday to gin up support in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

The New Jersey Democrat has failed to boost his standings in national and statewide primary polls, stagnating at around 3 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling index

Updated: 11:38 a.m.