Democrats sprint to fundraising deadline ahead of critical stretch

Democrats sprint to fundraising deadline ahead of critical stretch

Democratic presidential candidates are mounting a last-minute push for donations as they near a crucial Sept. 30 fundraising deadline, moving quickly to build out their campaign bank accounts ahead of an expected fall campaign push.

For those in the primary field’s top tier, the end of the third quarter is an opportunity to demonstrate their political strength and viability relative to their rivals. The top five polling candidates raised nearly $100 million collectively between April and June, and they’re eager to post similar figures in the third quarter.

ADVERTISEMENT

But for others, the situation is more dire. The third-quarter fundraising hauls are likely to be viewed as a sign of which candidates have the resources to scale up their campaigns ahead of a critical period in the primary contest, and some Democrats worry that a disappointing finish to the quarter could sound the death knell for some campaigns.

“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,” Addisu Demissie, Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOutsider candidates outpoll insider candidates The Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg looks to upend Democratic race Poll: Biden support hits record low of 26 percent MORE’s (D-N.J.) campaign manager, told reporters on a conference call this month.

Demissie’s remarks came after the campaign sent a memo to supporters warning that unless Booker was able to raise $1.7 million by Sept. 30, the New Jersey senator would not have “a legitimate long-term path forward” in the Democratic nominating contest.

To be sure, Demissie said that Booker is not at risk of running out of money. And the campaign is on track to reach its $1.7 million goal by the Monday deadline, disclosing on Friday that it had raised nearly $1.3 million in the six days since the campaign blasted out its memo.

But the dire tone of Booker’s fundraising pitch reflects how seriously campaigns are taking the third-quarter deadline. With the Iowa caucuses, the first balloting of the 2020 nominating contest, only four months away, candidates who have yet to gain traction with voters and scale up their campaigns are running out of time.

“Every quarter gets more important,” said Kelly Dietrich, a veteran Democratic fundraiser and the CEO of the National Democratic Training Committee. “There’s less time to push off success. Your chances of having a moment, of pulling ahead and getting into the top spot are decreasing quickly.”

Once the quarter ends on Sept. 30, candidates will have until Oct. 15 to file reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) detailing their fundraising and spending. Those disclosures provide a critical window into the campaigns’ finances and whether they have the resources to build out their political operations.

Raising the stakes for some candidates is the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) announcement this week that it would toughen the criteria to qualify for the fifth presidential debate in November.

To make the cut, candidates will have to amass the support of at least 165,000 unique donors in addition to registering 3 percent in at least four committee-approved polls or 5 percent in two early state polls.

That’s a modest increase over the criteria to qualify for the fourth debate in October, which required candidates to collect contributions from 130,000 donors and notch at least 2 percent in four DNC-approved polls.

While the fifth debate is still well over a month away, some candidates are already seizing on the tougher requirements to raise money now.

A fundraising plea sent out by former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro’s presidential campaign on Thursday argued that raising money quickly is imperative to not only meet the DNC’s donor threshold but also fund the ad campaigns to bolster his standing in the polls.

If he is unable to make the cut for the fifth Democratic debate in November, Castro said in an email to supporters that “it will be the end of my campaign.”

“I just left an emergency meeting with my team,” Castro wrote. “They told me point blank: The DNC’s new debate threshold will be the end of the road if we can’t get more money in the door – immediately.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Even those at the front of the pack have hit the gas on their fundraising efforts in recent weeks.

Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenBiden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris lead Trump in Georgia: Poll University of Florida student government president faces impeachment over Trump Jr. appearance The Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Overnight Health Care: Top health official defends contract payments to Trump allies | Vaping advocates confident Trump will turn from flavor ban | Sanders gets endorsement from nurses union Krystal Ball credits Gabbard's upswing in 2020 race to 'feckless' Democratic establishment MORE (I-Vt.), who have both eschewed high-dollar fundraising events and are competing for dominance in small-dollar donations, have ramped up digital fundraising in recent weeks. Sanders’s campaign announced last week that 1 million individuals have donated to his presidential bid so far.

Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris lead Trump in Georgia: Poll Lindsey Graham vows to not watch 'un-American' Trump impeachment hearings Trump goes on tweeting offensive ahead of public impeachment hearing MORE, the longtime front-runner in the Democratic presidential field, has crisscrossed the country this month as part of a breakneck fundraising circuit. In the past 10 days alone, he has attended at least 10 fundraisers, including events in Los Angeles, St. Louis and Chicago.

Likewise, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Saagar Enjeti rips Buttigieg for praising Obama after misquote Krystal Ball credits Gabbard's upswing in 2020 race to 'feckless' Democratic establishment MORE and Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris lead Trump in Georgia: Poll The Hill's Morning Report - Diplomats kick off public evidence about Trump, Ukraine Outsider candidates outpoll insider candidates MORE (D-Calif.) have sprinted between fundraisers in the second half of September in hopes of posting impressive cash hauls on Oct. 15.

The pressure is on for Buttigieg in particular, who outraised every other Democratic hopeful in the second quarter with a staggering $24.8 million haul.

Dietrich said that while there is no set amount that presidential campaigns need to raise to keep going, there’s pressure to outperform past fundraising totals.

“Ideally, you want to throw out a number that awes people,” Dietrich said. “At a minimum, you want more than you had before.”