Steyer is running, Swalwell drops out, Warren releases her Q2 numbers, an update on Gravel’s fundraising, and the LGBTQ Victory Fund endorses Buttigieg.
Note: This is the speaking script for the show, so the audio as delivered will differ very slightly from the below. This script also does not include audio clips from third-party sources, or advertisements, which may appear at various points in the show.
Welcome to the Primary Ride Home for Tuesday, July 9th, 2019. I’m your host, Chris Higgins. Today: Steyer is running, Swalwell drops out, Warren releases her Q2 numbers, an update on Gravel’s fundraising, and the LGBTQ Victory Fund endorses Buttigieg.
Here’s what you missed today from the campaign trail.
Steyer is running
Today, we have a new candidate in this Democratic primary race. Yes, really. For real. It is happening again. You are actually awake, and this is real life. And, for what it’s worth, this very briefly brings up my total list of major candidates to 26, though that number will of course change in my very next segment. Our new candidate, as discussed briefly yesterday, is Tom Steyer.
Okay, so who is Tom Steyer? Well, he’s a 62-year-old billionaire, who is a former hedge fund manager and has been a fundraiser for Democrats for many, many years. He even worked on Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign way back in 1983. This man has deep ties within the party. Steyer’s main issues recently have been climate change and impeaching Donald Trump. On that latter issue, he has spent millions running TV ads encouraging impeachment.
Steyer announced his run in a YouTube video early this morning. The video does not have a Spanish version, and his website also lacks a Spanish translation. Although a biography from that website references his “21stCentury Bill of Rights” as a key vision, those rights are not enumerated anywhere on his website. Fortunately, I found a 2018 article by Caitlin Byrd in Charleston’s Post and Courier that explains what those are.
“Steyer planned to kick off […] conversations in Charleston during the first of five events he will hold across the country to promote his “5 Rights” platform.
It includes: the right to an equal vote, the right to clean air and water, the right to learn, the right to a living wage, and the right to health.
Steyer said he prefers to think of it as a “21st Century Bill of Rights” and not a political platform, even though he paid to have it printed as a full-page ad in USA Today and Gannett newspapers nationwide last month.”
Okay, so we’ve got that cleared up. That was an article from late 2018 discussing how Steyer was considering running for president, just like lots of high-profile Democrats at the time. But one of the surprising things about Steyer’s run today is that he publicly announced in January that he WAS NOT RUNNING.
At that time, he told the Des Moines Register that he was committed to spending, “100 percent of my time, effort and resources” on his organization Need to Impeach. Well, apparently that has changed. Here’s a clip from his announcement video, which features Steyer sitting in a barn, reflecting on his life and various issues as footage of relevant subjects flows in at various points. Listen in:
[STEYER CLIP 1]
I’ll have more on Steyer in future shows, and more on his platform as it becomes available.
Swalwell drops out
After precisely three months in the presidential primary race, Congressman Eric Swalwell officially dropped out yesterday. He held a press conference at the IBEW Local 595 Union Hall in Dublin, California. In his remarks, he talked about working in that very same hall decades ago on a City Council candidate’s campaign. He went on to discuss the achievements of his campaign for the presidency, and I’ll play a brief clip of that now. Listen in:
[SWALWELL CLIP 1]
Some notable things about Swalwell’s candidacy are, of course, his signature policy on gun control. Also, his campaign staff was one of just a handful in this field that was unionized—they joined the Teamsters Local 238. And Swalwell, if you’ll recall, was the 38-year-old man asking older candidates to, “pass the torch,” to a younger generation during the debates.
Swalwell says he’ll run for Congress again, and it seems likely he’ll win his old seat again, since last time he won in an absolute landslide. He does face a potential primary challenger there, but that’s a whole other story.
As for reasons why he dropped out when he did, Swalwell cited low polling and fundraising numbers, which may be code for simply running out of cash on hand. He is also one of the candidates who might have been tangled up in a potential tie-breaker situation in order to qualify for the debates later this month. If he sees his odds there as being low and his overall fundraising numbers are poor, maybe getting a jump on the House seat is a good move.
Reading here from a Politico story by Carla Marinucci and Jeremy B. White,
“…[I]n more than a dozen national polls tracking the Democratic presidential field, Swalwell’s campaign failed to even register 1 percent among likely voters. And while Swalwell did demonstrate some fundraising prowess, pulling more than $1 million [dollars] into his congressional committee in the first quarter of 2019, his presidential campaign has not yet posted any donation totals.”
And that is a very telling note—Swalwell entered the race for president in Q2, so he didn’t have any presidential fundraising numbers for Q1 to report. When his Q2 numbers come out, we may get a better of sense of why he dropped out now rather than sticking around and trying to qualify for that debate later this month. In that same Politico article, Swalwell estimated his total presidential fundraising at around $850,000 dollars.
Swalwell’s exit may be a sign of things to come within this very crowded field. But here’s a tip for your gossip around the water cooler—he is actually NOT the first Democratic candidate to drop out. That honor goes to former West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda, who joined the race in November 2018 and dropped out in January 2019.
Warren releases her Q2 numbers
Okay, this next story should NOT be lost in the shuffle, despite all the big news and other stuff going on right now. Yesterday, Senator Elizabeth Warren released her Q2 fundraising numbers. Let’s get right into them.
She raised $19.1 million dollars in Q2, which Politico reporter Alex Thompson noted on Twitter is more than TRIPLE what she raised in Q1, if you exclude transfers into her campaign from her Senate account back in Q1. Warren reports having $19.7 million dollars in cash on hand, which reflects the fact that she’s spending aggressively on the ground operations in early voting states, with a heavy focus on Iowa. The campaign said she has more than 300 staffers, 60 percent of whom are in those early-voting states. There were a total of 386,000 donors in Q2, 80 percent of whom were new to Warren’s campaign. The average donation was $28 dollars, which is comfortably in between the Sanders number that’s below 20 bucks and the Biden/Buttigieg numbers in the high 40s.
Okay, so let’s analyze all of this just a bit.
Warren’s Q2 raise puts her in third place in the fundraising race, behind Buttigieg and Biden. She’s a little bit ahead of Sanders and well ahead of Harris. The campaign also noted that Warren held no fundraisers. Let me put that in some context—Warren has held plenty of events and attended other people’s events, but she hasn’t charged ticket prices for those events, hence this thing of “no fundraisers.” Reading from Thompson on Twitter,
“Warren raised more than Bernie ($18 million [dollars]) and Kamala ($12 million [dollars]) and raised close to Biden ($21.5 million [dollars]). Mayor Pete [is] at $24.8 million [dollars], but he also attended about 50 high-dollar fundraisers and 20 "grassroots" fundraisers w[ith] lower ticket prices.”
So that’s an interesting detail that the campaign is working to emphasize—Warren got this really nice number, and did it without charging people to come and pay for a private dinner or whatever. Sanders did roughly the same thing, and their numbers are pretty similar, though Warren’s momentum—the 300% increase from Q1 to Q2, is great news for her. Reading once more from Thompson on Twitter,
“Beyond Warren, the fact that both her and Bernie have raised the 3rd and 4th highest amount of money--and raised more than candidates like Harris--despite essentially no fundraisers is an enormous milestone in online fundraising.
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.”
Another thing to keep in mind here is how Warren is positioned within the overall field. A lot of pundits look at her as nearly identical to Sanders on policy and general progressiveness. Reading one last time from Thompson, this time in his Politico piece discussing the numbers,
“Warren has gradually been trying to establish herself as a progressive alternative to Sanders, with splashy proposals to forgive $600 billion [dollars] in student debt and impose a "wealth tax" on people with assets over $50 million [dollars]. 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.”
And therein lies the challenge, really, for both candidates. If their policy stances are similar, which, broadly they are, it remains to be seen whether they are essentially splitting the same chunk of voters between them.
The final thing to thing about when you’re analyzing Warren, at least right now, is why she waited until yesterday to release these numbers. The way last week played out, we saw Buttigieg jump out of the gate with what he believed, correctly, was the biggest Q2 number. Following that, we heard from Sanders and Biden, who both had solid numbers, and then on Friday, Harris with a good number, but one that’s essentially flat from Q1, not yet showing growth—though given how her campaign did right at the end of the quarter, Harris’s momentum is not well-reflected in Q2.
It’s likely that Warren knew roughly what her numbers were that whole time, but chose to wait until this week to make her announcement. Now why would that be? It seems like a strategy to get good media placement. You wait until all the other big players release their numbers, and then swoop in and point out that, oh hey, by the way, you’re the third-biggest fundraiser and you’ve got all this momentum. There’s nobody left right now in this field who will have gotten numbers like this, so the media cycle and narrative around Q2, at least for this week, is locked in. And that narrative is, essentially, wow, look at that Warren number, and wow, look how much better it is than Q1.
An update on Gravel’s fundraising
Yesterday I talked about how Marianne Williamson encouraged her owndonors to chip in a dollar to former Senator Mike Gravel’s campaign, so that he might qualify for the debates later this month. At the time, his campaign had said they needed only 10,000 more donors to make it. That’s part of what spurred Williamson to action—knowing that the goal was actually within reach.
Well, it turns out that 10,000 donor figure was a major miscount.
On July 2nd, as I mentioned yesterday, the Gravel campaign tweeted: “Status update: we're now 10,000 donors away from the threshold.” Then after I recorded the story yesterday, the campaign tweeted:
“A clarification: this number was based on a misunderstanding of the ActBlue donation numbers which lag in updating the number of donors. In reality, we are 15,000 donors away from the threshold at most recent count.”
Yeah. So being 50 percent off is a rather substantial miscount, and possibly a shock to people who jumped in with the hope of driving Gravel straight to the finish line.
I reached out again to the Gravel campaign for comment this morning, and they confirmed a new number: Gravel, as of this morning, according to their math, needs roughly 12,000 MORE new donors to qualify for the July debates under the grassroots fundraising method. This number comes AFTER the multiple thousands of donors who came in yesterday in response to Williamson’s efforts and Gravel’s organic fundraising on his own.
So. The goal line has moved. If this latest count is correct, Gravel needs to bring in 12,000 NEW donors by the end of this week to make it. So if you’re a Gravel supporter and you haven’t chipped in yet, it’s basically now or never.
I should also mention that prior to the Williamson buzz, the Gravel campaign was spending a lot of time on Twitter talking about how to donate leftover campaign funds when it inevitably winds down either this month or next.
The LGBTQ Victory Fund endorses Buttigieg
And last up today, a quick item on a notable endorsement. Yesterday, the LGBTQ Victory Fund endorsed Mayor Pete Buttigieg for president at a campaign event in Brooklyn. This is notable because it is the very FIRST time the Victory Fund has endorsed ANYBODY for president. And they’ve been around for a while.
Reading from the press release,
“The announcement came on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising that sparked the modern LGBTQ rights movement and just a few miles from where the Stonewall Inn still stands. It is Mayor Pete’s first endorsement from a national organization and the first time in Victory Fund’s 28-year history that it is endorsing a presidential candidate. The 104-member Victory Campaign Board – the organization’s endorsement body – voted unanimously in favor of the endorsement earlier this month.”
And I want to read one more bit from that release toward the end, explaining the Victory Fund’s rationale.
“Mayor Pete is the first viable LGBTQ candidate for President of the United States and only the second to run for a major party’s nomination. In a recent Gallup poll, 76 percent of Americans said they are willing to vote for an openly gay presidential candidate. The number trends well with results from the 2018 midterms. Out LGBTQ candidates and Victory Fund endorsees Tammy Baldwin and Kyrsten Sinema both won U.S. Senate seats – in Wisconsin and Arizona, respectively – despite Donald Trump carrying those states in 2016.”
Well, that is it for one more episode of the Primary Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Well, as I have recorded this episode, out in the yarden, there have been two chainsaws running on and off, plus a chipper that fired up from time to time. Now I do wonder, did you notice? I hope not. I really do have a plugin that is supposed to cut out noises like that. Anyway, while we were talking to the arborists, we found a beautiful little sapling, which turned out to be English Walnut, but it was growing in the world’s worst place for a majestic tree—it was just ten feet from the base of a 50-year-old Doug Fir. Well, goodbye tiny walnut, we will plant a tree in a better place in your memory. As always, thanks for listening and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.