The senator far exceeded expectations after forswearing fundraisers.
Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign announced Monday she raised $19.1 million in the second quarter of the year, more than tripling her first-quarter total despite holding no fundraisers.
The haul far exceeded expectations: Warren surpassed both Bernie Sanders ($18 million) and Kamala Harris ($12 million) and came close to Joe Biden ($21.5 milllion). Her outpacing of Sanders is particularly notable, given the army of small-dollar donors he amassed in 2016 and their similarly progressive stances.
The eye-popping total is a validation for Warren after months of second-guessing from Washington strategists who questioned the wisdom of publicly vowing not to hold fundraisers or do “call time” with wealthy donors during the primary.
The Warren campaign has argued that forswearing fundraisers has been critical to her recent rise in the polls. The freed-up time, staffers argue, has allowed Warren to do 107 town halls, travel to 23 states plus Puerto Rico, wait through her signature “selfie lines” after every event, and dive deep into policy. Warren’s personal calls to small-dollar donors — and the resulting web videos of some of those calls — have also become a hit on Twitter as random progressives announce that “Elizabeth Warren called me!”
“Almost everything going well for [Warren] lately traces to her decision not to devote her time and energy to wealthy donor access, but instead to building organization and talking about problems facing the country and solutions,” her senior adviser Dan Geldon tweeted last month. “It’s the right way to run for President.”
Warren and Sanders, who also has essentially spurned the fundraising circuit, have both managed to fund their campaigns and outraise rivals like Harris through donations online. They also were within range of Pete Buttigieg, who raised a pack-leading $25 million but who attended about 50 high-dollar fundraisers plus 20 other fundraisers with lower ticket prices in the second quarter.
But Sanders had the advantage of having assembled a grass-roots donor base during his last presidential run. Warren’s ability to surpass him this quarter suggests that her operation is quickly gaining on the Vermont senator.
Warren has gradually been trying to establish herself as a progressive alternative to Sanders, with splashy proposals to forgive $600 billion in student debt and impose a “wealth tax” on people with assets over $50 million. After several months of varying answers on Medicare for All — Sanders’ signature issue — Warren has recently deployed a simple response on the issue: “I’m with Bernie.”
It was an answer that left Sanders one less way to distinguish himself on policy from Warren.
The Warren campaign appears built to last. After hiring more than 300 staffers, it still has $19.7 million cash on hand, according to a campaign source. That figure suggests that the campaign dramatically reduced its “burn rate” in the second quarter, from 85 percent to 55 percent. The campaign still spent about $10.6 million last quarter, but the increase in online fundraising allowed it to add $8.5 million to its cash on hand.
“You’re making it possible to build a presidential campaign without catering to wealthy donors — with no closed-door fundraisers, no Super PACs, and no money from Washington lobbyists, corporate PACs, or, for that matter, PACs of any kind,” campaign manager Roger Lau wrote in an email to supporters.
Harris and Biden have declined to say how much cash on hand they have. Sanders and Buttigieg have the most with $30 million and $22.6 million, respectively, though Buttigieg’s campaign said $832,000 is earmarked for the general election. The Warren campaign source said that less than $100,000 of her cash is for the general election.
Warren started with a $10.4 million cushion transferred from her 2018 Senate reelection. That money allowed her to make expensive investments in staff early on without fear of going into the red.
The campaign has already deployed huge teams to the early states, with over 60 staffers in Iowa, over 50 in New Hampshire, and 30 each in Nevada and South Carolina. The early ramp-up in Iowa especially has left other campaigns scrambling to match her as they’ve announce dozens of their own hires over the past month.
Warren’s average donation was $28, and more than 80 percent of the 384,000 second-quarter donors — roughly 307,000 people — were first-time donors, the campaign said. Some 442,000 people have now donated to Warren’s campaign.
“I am humbled by the depth of grassroots commitment to our campaign,” Warren tweeted. “This is how we make our government and democracy work for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”
Politico · by Alex Thompson · July 8, 2019