Several longtime Democratic donors and fundraisers said Thursday that Bloomberg’s performance at the Democratic debate froze the momentum building for his candidacy and away from the Biden campaign, saying they were disappointed at Bloomberg’s apparent inability to defend himself against predictable questions, such as those regarding the nondisclosure agreements and “stop and frisk.”
Two longtime donors who are raising money for the Biden campaign, who spoke anonymously to be frank about the candidate they are supporting, said they believed the former vice president has hit a ceiling in raising a significant amount of money from new donors. If Bloomberg improves in his debate performance, and Biden does worse than expected in Nevada and South Carolina, that may prompt Biden donors to jump ship, they said.
“No one is going to do anything until South Carolina,” said one Biden donor and fundraiser. “You’ve got to understand, whatever money has been raised for Biden has been raised. It’s not like he can go and raise new money.”
“All Bloomberg wants you to do is not raise money for Biden. I will tell you right now, that’s happening. Not because people are going to Bloomberg, but because it’s so hard to raise money for Biden,” the person said.
Bloomberg is not taking donations to his campaign, but he has asked influential donors and fundraisers to serve as “friend-raisers” for his campaign, publicly endorsing him and helping get other influential party figures on board.
Other well-connected Democratic fundraisers said it was still too early to tell how donors will respond to the Biden-Bloomberg dynamic, because it was Bloomberg’s first debate. The next one will feature higher stakes for both candidates, they said.
Sanders and Warren used their debate performances to generate a major injection of cash. Sanders’s campaign said it raised $2.7 million, and Warren’s campaign said it raised more than $2.8 million.
Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic donor and Democratic National Committee member, said grass-roots donor energy for those candidates shows that the world of bundlers and fundraisers is becoming increasingly less relevant to the primary process.
“It’s traumatic for Park Avenue and Bel-Air to come to terms with this, but cocktail parties aren’t where the action is,” Zimmerman said, referring to posh neighborhoods of New York City and Los Angeles. “I tell my political establishment friends to get off their yoga mats, get out of group therapy and start knocking on doors, because the grass-roots activism is where the power is.”
“They have to realize they’re not ‘making the decisions’; the decisions are being made by the small-dollar donors who have fueled Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and a candidate’s ability to mobilize that grass-roots energy will determine the future of the Democratic Party,” Zimmerman added.