Democratic presidential hopefuls in the United States are finally beginning to get serious. By serious I mean they’re starting to drop out. The crowded field that featured over 20 candidates at the beginning of the year lost five in the past two months due to inadequate support and inability to reach necessary donor requirements to appear in the democratic primary debates. This is the only measure of the party getting serious however, the candidates who still believe they have a chance at running against Donald Trump continue to make normal people scratch our heads with bizarre stories about run ins with gang leaders like “Corn Pop”, praise for parents who use a nine year old transgender child to virtue signal, promises to “tell the public about aliens,” and claims that it is “unfair” to make people warn their sexual partners that they are HIV positive.
Those who haven’t dropped out of the race became subject to the mandatory third quarter FEC (Federal Election Commission) filings which represented campaign funding and spending from June 30th to September 30th. Official reports won’t be released by the FEC until October 15th, but candidates oftentimes release their reports voluntarily in the weeks preceding. Using these reports, we get a clearer idea of which campaigns are comfortable and which are barely hanging on heading into the end of year “holiday” quarter when donations historically tend to drop off.
Money is not the ultimate indicator of who will win an election, but understanding where donations are coming from and how they’re being spent helps paint the picture of which direction voter support is going. Here are the numbers for the candidates who have reported their Quarter 3 filings so far.
The most glaring takeaway from this information is the jockeying for position amongst the top four polling Democrat hopefuls. Pete Buttigieg’s position at the top of campaign donations last quarter was conceded to Bernie Sanders who received $25.3 million after having his most lucrative month of donations in September. Not only did Sanders receive the most money from donors in Q3, he did it in impressive fashion by receiving 1.4 million individual donations at an average of just under $18 each. This is a testament to the grassroots model Sanders built in 2016, and bodes well for a long campaign. Individual citizens are allowed to personally donate up to $2,800 to a candidate per election, so receiving the most money of any candidate strictly through small donations means he has cultivated a large pool of people who are willing to repeatedly donate to his campaign.
However, recent polls indicate that the heart attack Sanders suffered on the 1st of October has soured voter trust in his ability to win the nomination, beat the bellicose Trump in a grueling election cycle, and remain in good condition through a four year term. Although his campaign managers insist that his health is fine, they ultimately are responsible for the further division of the democratic party and waste of resources if Sanders can’t make it to the election. And if he does, a vote for Sanders in 2020 must have careful consideration regarding his vice-presidential running mate. This presents a strategic component to a potential Sanders ticket. His health concerns can’t be overlooked, but in fairness the democrats have kept the corpse of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court for the better part of a decade, so his faithful band of “Berners” don’t need to fear him dropping out of the race until it looks unwinnable.
Coming in at second in the FEC campaign funding reports is Elizabeth Warren who is surging since a demoralizing March 28th Quinnipiac poll where she received support from just 4% of democrat voters. Today she is arguably at the top of the list of democratic candidates, this is as much her own doing as it is the undoing of all the realistic competition.
For starters, Warren has taken everything that was successful about Sanders 2016 campaign and ran with it. Many of his ideas and strict adherences to socialism were alarming and niche to Americans in 2016, but times have changed at a snowball pace. Now, every candidate on the debate stage is unapologetically pitching the socialist rhetoric that had democrats very divided on Sanders when he faced off with Hillary in 2016. The difference with Warren is that she has truly tapped into the grassroots progressive revolution that was left hanging when the Clinton machine swept Bernie under the rug. There is no Clinton in this race and Warren’s refusal to take corporate money, instead depending on small donations a la Sanders, has paid off big time.
Instead of making the rounds through corporate offices and ingratiating herself with wealthy donors, she spends hours after her rallies making sure all the thousands of people in her “selfie lines” get a picture with the Senator. It sounds petty, but it is little gestures like this that are fueling her small donation success and reigniting the progressive millennial crowd who walked away from election night in 2016 emptyhanded and feeling betrayed. They see Bernie’s declining health and don’t want to revisit the heartbreak they felt when he failed the first time.
Warren’s donation statistics are not quite as impressive as Bernie’s, but they should be equally encouraging to her voters. In Q3 Warren received $24.6 million from 940,000 individual donations for an average of $26. Again, these sorts of numbers are indicative of a mobilized and excited voter base of middle- and lower-class people who are in it for the long haul. And Warren is putting the money to use. While many lower tier candidates have completely stopped spending so they can line the walls of their war chest, Warren has taken the first steps in the metamorphoses from democratic hopeful to democratic nominee by aiming an eight figure TV and digital ad campaign directly at President Trump and his team.
Coming in third in Q3 donations is Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Mayor Pete received his $19.1 million from 540,000 individual donations with an average donation of $32. This means that his donation pool is not as wide as Sanders or Warren and many of his donors have likely already reached the donation limit of $2,800. Provided this is the case, his donations will continue to fall as the wealthier makeup of his constituency reach the legal limit for supporting their candidate.
And there is definitely support for Buttigieg in corporate and grassroots circles, but his supporters and undecided democrats have an uncomfortable truth to come to terms with before they rally behind him as the foil to Trump. Simply put, many Americans aren’t ready for an openly gay President and the “first man” at his side in the White House yet. It doesn’t help that Mayor Pete is championing the most recent bout of insane democrat pandering to minorities by saying it shouldn’t be illegal to knowingly transmit the HIV virus to somebody. This type of ludicrous stance on a minority issue not only alienates a huge portion of the American public, but leaves a significant portion of the entire country bewildered that a human being, let alone a candidate for president could support that sort of position. As the article above eloquently puts it, “Democrats may be endorsing this irresponsible decriminalization in an attempt to pander to woke gay and transgender activists, yet in reality it’s mostly the gay community that these laws protect in the first place. Putting gay lives at risk appears to be ‘woke’ now, but it’s sure as hell not ‘progressive’ in any meaningful sense of the word.”
And finally, in fourth place regarding Q3 campaign donations is the former vice president Joe Biden. Biden raised a total of $15.2 million this quarter, a steep drop of over $6 million from his Q2 totals. The former vice president has by far the highest average donation at $44, and 2,832 supporters who have already donated the maximum amount of $2,800. As with Mayor Pete, this points to a much smaller field of grassroots “everyman” support to depend on, a necessity in an election against Donald Trump. However, the mental association many Americans still have with the name Biden and the messianic name Obama has proven to go a long way, as Biden and Warren still battle at the top of most polls.
To appreciate the discrepancies between voter base we can look at where exactly everybody’s money is coming from. For Biden and Buttigieg, more than half of their money comes from donations over $200. This includes “fundraising dinners” where the price of the ticket is oftentimes exactly $2,800. The mayor and the former vice president have made these high roller dinners the centerpiece of their fundraising strategy and we can see that reflected in the professions which donate to them the most.
Using this chart, it is apparent that Buttigieg and Biden are significantly more popular with positions like attorney, CEO, physician, and corporate president. Likewise, Sanders and Warren clean up donations with college students, professors and the impressionable young nouveau riche Silicon Valley software engineer crowd. While Biden and Buttigieg fly across the country to charm real estate developers and personal injury law firms, students and employees from places like Starbucks and Google flock to the banner of progressive socialists like Warren and Sanders.
What does it all mean for the 2020 election?
It seems increasingly like this is Elizabeth Warrens nomination to lose. There are still some interesting candidates in the lower tiers such as Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard, but it is probably to late for them to do anything besides build their “war chests” and use the remainder of their active candidate publicity as a job interview for potential jobs in the cabinet of the next president.
Biden may still have the edge over Warren in a few polls, but his mind and his campaign are unpredictable of late. The hilariously out of touch “Cornpop” story is a microcosm of what Biden really is, a man who grew up in an age where it was OK to acknowledge that races are different and now is trying to fit himself into a party that thinks biology is evil and skin color doesn’t indicate anything except melanin levels. There are countless examples online of Biden’s social faux pas that would underline this point. Combined with what seems like waning mental faculty, it makes you wonder if when he says things like “poor kids are just as bright as white kids” how much is gaffe and how much is Freudian slip?
As mentioned, the mental association American’s have between “Biden-Obama” is what is driving Uncle Joe’s campaign at this point. Little do many voters know, Obama allegedly quietly pressured Biden not to run in 2020. In fact, Obama still refuses to support who the media once portrayed as his “best friend” for president. We can only speculate why somebody who worked so closely with Biden for eight years would not endorse him. Whatever the reason, Biden’s deficiencies will be further illuminated by a much smaller stage and much longer spotlight in the coming debates.
For Sanders, the heart attack is no small concern for the establishment puppet masters on the left, who ultimately need to give the green light on whichever candidate looks to be breaking away from the pack. Trump was formerly the oldest President to take office in US history at the age of 70, Sanders would potentially be stepping into the White House for the first time at 78. By itself his age would not be an issue, but the health problems and the fact that his voting base would almost entirely move their support to Warren means the prudent decision would be to not gamble on Sanders health when Warren is saying the same things and could corner the female demographic.
For Buttigieg, polls indicate that 30-40% of Americans still don’t support gay marriage, a not-insignificant statistic to consider before positioning Buttigieg opposite Trump. And although identity politics are a tough thing for people to hear, many of the women who only voted in 2016 to support Hillary and many of the African-Americans who only voted in 2008 and 2012 to support Obama in 2008 and 2012 can’t exactly be expected to rally around the Christian white male Buttigieg. All three of those adjectives are qualities that have been used to demonize Trump in the past.
Thus, we are left with Warren. And that may not be such a bad thing for democrats. These days she is firmly progressive socialist, but Warren openly admits that she was a registered republican in the 90’s. At the very least this could be used as bait to lure never-Trump republicans over to the democrat side. Plus, Warren is known as the policy queen; seemingly possessing an answer to every question. Her campaign motto is “Warren has a plan,” and while the natural conservative response is that many of those plans would be a disaster, it’s a catchy slogan that craftily emphasizes the liberal conviction that Trump doesn’t know what he is doing. Additionally, she has half the skeletons in her closet that Hillary and the Clinton cabal did. If Hillary’s endless list of felonies and shortcomings as secretary of state didn’t bother voters in 2016, Warren lying about her native American heritage on a university application and the Trump bestowed nickname “Pocahontas” will hardly bother them in 2020.
The culling of the field has begun. 19 candidates stand where once there were 27. While four appear to have a plausible shot, grave error and scandal have tanked promising presidential campaigns before.
The thinning pack of democrat hopefuls means Trump has much clearer sights on his targets. Expect to see vintage Trump as he transitions back into election mode with renewed rhetoric about the border wall and anti-intervention in Syria. Only time will tell if it was too little too late.
By Eric Alexiev