Money Gap Among Democrats Grows as Inslee, Castro and Gillibrand Report Small Hauls

The gap between the rich and the poor in the Democratic presidential primary is big — and growing.

Some of the second-tier candidates began announcing their fund-raising hauls for the second quarter of 2019 on Monday afternoon as the filing deadline of midnight approached. Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington ($3 million), former housing secretary Julian Castro ($2.8 million) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand ($2.3 million) reported totals that amounted to only a fraction of those raised by the top candidates.

The money chase is being paced by Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., who raised $24.8 million in the last quarter.

Among the other candidates who have released second-quarter financial figures are former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who raised $21.5 million; Senator Elizabeth Warren, $19.1 million; Senator Bernie Sanders, $18 million; and Senator Kamala Harris, nearly $12 million.

While Democrats are raising millions for an intensifying primary between each other, President Trump and the Republican National Committee announced Monday that they had already banked a staggering $123 million for the 2020 campaign.

One of the biggest mysteries of the quarterly filing period remains the haul for Beto O’Rourke. Political insiders have whispered for weeks that a depressed figure was likely and would help quantify just how much momentum has diminished for the former Texas congressman since March, when he appeared to be one of the Democratic Party’s strongest fund-raisers.

After announcing his candidacy, Mr. O’Rourke posted the biggest one-day haul of any contender in the race (his $6.1 million was later topped by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.), and he announced in April that he had raised $9.4 million in his first 18 days.

The top fund-raisers typically release their totals in advance in a show of force, as Mr. O’Rourke did last quarter, bragging about raising more than $500,000 per day. But his campaign declined to share figures in advance for this quarter, and tried to prepare his small donors for the worst as he has slipped in the polls to the low single digits.

ImageJulián Castro spoke at the Netroots Nation convention in Philadelphia on Saturday.
CreditMichelle Gustafson for The New York Times

“Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down,” Mr. O’Rourke’s digital director, Rob Flaherty, emailed supporters last week. “Sometimes you’re Hootie and sometimes you’re the Blowfish.”

By the end of the day on Monday, all the top Democrats in the race, along with Mr. Trump, must fully detail how much money they raised — and how they spent it — in the first six months of 2019. The filings will also provide the first look inside the operation that Mr. Biden is building; he entered the race in late April, too late to be included in the first quarter.

Both recent polling and the second-quarter fund-raising figures demonstrate how the race has stratified into clear tiers. There are only five candidates who regularly clear 5 percent in the polls. And those are the only five candidates to announce second-quarter hauls of at least $10 million so far: Mr. Buttigieg, Mr. Biden, Ms. Warren, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Harris, who combined have raised nearly $100 million.

Mr. Buttigieg, a 37-year-old who was virtually unknown only a few months ago, has emerged as the surprise fund-raising star of the cycle, a favorite both of major bundlers who collect $2,800 contributions and of small donors who give $200 or less (Mr. Buttigieg counts more than 400,000 contributors so far).

Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders, two of the most outspoken progressives in the contest, have rejected high-dollar fund-raisers and rely almost exclusively on small donors and those who give online. That strategy helped Mr. Sanders become a financial juggernaut in his 2016 run, but Ms. Warren notably surpassed him last quarter, after he had tripled her haul in the first quarter.

One of the bigger developments of the early stages of the primary has been the emergence of Mr. Buttigieg and the decline of Mr. O’Rourke.

Yet even if his fund-raising does not match initial expectations, Mr. O’Rourke was expected to surpass many of the other two-dozen Democratic presidential candidates who did not inherit his massive list of past supporters.

For instance, Mr. O’Rourke long ago fulfilled the Democratic National Committee’s requirement that candidates have at least 130,000 donors — a threshold that Senators Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand still have not met.

CreditLauren Justice for The New York Times

But while Mr. O’Rourke shattered fund-raising records as a Texas Senate candidate running against the Republican Senator Ted Cruz in 2018 — he raised $80 million — he has found tougher sledding competing against his fellow Democrats.

Some of the senior advisers from his 2018 Senate run have departed, and a new team being run by his campaign manager Jennifer O’Malley Dillon is still being constructed in El Paso, his hometown. Ms. Dillon did not join Mr. O’Rourke until after he had already announced, which is unusual for presidential campaigns.

While some candidates had assembled what amounted to campaigns-in-waiting as far back as 2018, Mr. O’Rourke is still building out the top tier of his operation; a national press secretary and a national policy director only came on board in recent weeks.

While Ms. Harris, Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg have kept up a particularly aggressive schedule of high-dollar fund-raisers with $1,000 entry prices, Mr. O’Rourke has only held a handful of such events — and had held none until halfway through the quarter. Mr. O’Rourke recently named his first national finance director, poaching a fund-raiser who had left the flagging campaign of former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

On Monday, potential donors to Mr. O’Rourke were invited to a New York fund-raiser next week.

Mr. O’Rourke has continued to draw crowds on the campaign trail, but he has searched aloud for an answer to why he — a white, former three-term congressman — is best positioned for and deserving of the presidency. On Sunday, in an unusual note to supporters, he revealed that he and his wife are descendants of slave owners, while writing he would “support reparations.”

“I benefit from a system that my ancestors built to favor themselves at the expense of others,” he wrote in a note that appeared timed to the publication of an article in The Guardian about his ancestry.

There do not appear to be enough big or small donors to support all the Democratic candidates financially. Already one candidate, Representative Eric Swalwell of California, has dropped out. Another, Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, reported raising less than $900,000 — far less than needed to run a viable national campaign.

Other candidates who have announced their fund-raising totals include Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado ($2.8 million), the entrepreneur Andrew Yang ($2.8 million) and Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana ($2 million).

Meanwhile, a super PAC supporting Senator Cory Booker said it had raised only $1.125 million so far in 2019, far below expectations. Its founder, Steve Phillips, had claimed last December in an interview that he had $4 million in commitments. The bulk of the money, $1 million, came from Mr. Phillips’s wife, Susan Sandler.

Source: NYT

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