The DNC said Sunday that it had raised $7.7 million in September, ending the month with $8.6 million in cash on hand — more than at the same time in 2015, when Democrats held the White House.
Xochitl Hinojosa, the DNC’s communications director, expressed confidence that Democrats will be financially competitive in 2020, saying “donors will coalesce around our nominee because there has never been a more unifying Republican opponent for Democrats than Donald Trump … There has never been this much angst about what this president has done to our country.”
One challenge for Democrats within the party’s fundraising ecosystem is already surfacing: intraparty sniping about who should be stepping up to raise money for Democrats. After Republicans announced a multi-million ad assault in early states against Biden, the former vice president’s supporters and DNC critics lashed out at the party apparatus, saying it should help defend against Trump’s attempts to take out one of the Democratic frontrunners. DNC Chairman Tom Perez has said it wasn’t the DNC’s role.
One of Biden’s supporters, Dick Harpootlian, a former DNC member and two-time South Carolina Democratic Party chair, took aim at Perez, saying his inability to come within striking distance of GOP fundraising — even at a time when Trump is facing impeachment — has put Democrats in a grave situation.
“Tom Perez is as useless as tits on a boar hog,” said Harpootlian. “My advice to Tom Perez is quit, get out of the way or do something different. Maybe they need to send a spy to the Republican shop and find out how they’re raising hundreds of millions of dollars off of a guy like Donald Trump.“
Another centrist voice, Matt Bennett, co-founder of the Third Way think tank, suggested that billionaire Tom Steyer exit the presidential primary and direct his resources toward combating the Trump advertising in early states that target Biden.
“If I were Tom Steyer, what I would do is drop out and announce that all the resources I was going to put toward my campaign [instead would go to] defending against the slander and slime being directed at [Biden] by Donald Trump and his henchmen,” Bennett said, arguing that it wasn’t about protecting Biden but about not allowing Trump to control the Democratic primary.
Steyer’s campaign took offense, noting that the businessman dug into his own pockets to lead the charge on impeachment and separately launched a national voter registration drive before the 2018 midterms. Steyer is also bankrolling “Talk to Trump ads” that are currently running on “Fox and Friends,” which “highlights real people calling out Trump’s presidency for the failure it is,” according to Steyer’s campaign.
“Tom has already committed over $50 million separate from his campaign to help Democrats win in 2020 and is running anti-Trump ads in key states and nationally right now,” said Steyer campaign spokesman Benjamin Gerdes.
Not everyone is convinced the party needs to raise the alarms yet. Some see promising signs in the fundraising potential next year, with Warren and Sanders, among other candidates, cultivating large lists of small donors who can contribute repeatedly ahead of the general election campaign.
Others are convinced that the clear and present danger of a second Trump term will ultimately spark an avalanche of Democratic cash against him.
Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said, “The only way the Democratic nominee won’t have enough money is if tens of millions of Democrats wake up finding that they’ve made their peace with the idea of Trump getting re-elected. And that’s not going to happen.”
Given the nature of the wide-open primary, some donors are “absolutely” waiting to donate until a nominee is selected, said Steve Westly, a former California state controller and major bundler of campaign contributions for Obama.
“The second Democrats coalesce around a single candidate, I believe there will be a tidal wave of money going to the Democratic nominee,” said Westly, a Biden supporter.
Sean Bagniewski, chairman of Iowa’s Polk County Democrats, said the county’s recent Steak Fry, which drew record attendance, raised “nuts money for us,” though he declined to say how much.
“Money’s really important, but it’s shocking how much money can be raised through ActBlue and small donors,” he said. “Whoever the nominee is, they’re going to have millions of dollars the first day they’re the nominee.”
Even if they don’t, Trump himself offers the example of a candidate who prevailed despite being outspent by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Unlike in down-ballot races where candidates have to spend millions of dollars to introduce themselves to voters, major party nominees have near-universal name recognition.
Charles Chamberlain, chairman of the progressive group Democracy for America, said his main concern heading into 2020 is that “Democrats nominate somebody who doesn’t inspire the grassroots.”
Democrats are “delusional” if they think “that winning in 2020 is going to be a cakewalk,” he said . However, “I’m only worried about the money if we nominate an uninspiring, disappointing nominee.”