In this edition: Loads o' money and where it went, the Democratic fight over Obama's health-care legacy, and finally, some New Hampshire polls.
In 48 hours, “squad goals” turned into a politically loaded term, and this is The Trailer.
We now know what everyone running for federal office raised in the second quarter of 2019, and we've learned plenty from the data. Here's what mattered.
Democrats are raising more money than the out-of-power party ever has. First, the black ink. Here's how much each candidate's main campaign committees raised from March through June, not counting loans and transfers.
Donald Trump: $54 million
Pete Buttigieg: $24.9 million
Joe Biden: $22 million
Elizabeth Warren: $19.2 million
Bernie Sanders: $18.1 million
Kamala Harris: $11.8 million
Cory Booker: $4.5 million
Amy Klobuchar: $3.9 million
Beto O’Rourke: $3.6 million
Jay Inslee: $3.1 million
Julián Castro: $2.8 million
Andrew Yang: $2.8 million
Michael Bennet: $2.8 million
Kirsten Gillibrand: $2.3 million
Steve Bullock: $2.1 million
Tulsi Gabbard: $1.6 million
Marianne Williamson: $1.5 million
Seth Moulton: $1.2 million
John Hickenlooper: $1.1 million
Bill de Blasio: $1.1 million
Tim Ryan: $889,000
John Delaney: $284,476
Mike Gravel: $209,261
Wayne Messam: $50,281
In the second fundraising quarter of 2011, Barack Obama raised $46.3 million for his reelection campaign; the combined donations to every Republican candidate totaled $36.3 million. But in this past quarter, the combined Democratic fundraising blew past Trump's number; he raised $54 million, and every Democrat totaled more than $131 million. (When two separate Trump campaign entities are added in, the president's number grows to $56.7 million.)
The numbers get a little less lopsided when money for party committees is added in; Obama's DNC raised $38 million, while Trump's RNC raised $51 million. (Incumbent presidents form joint fundraising agreements with their party committees, something the out-of-power party can't match until it has a nominee.) Factor that in, and Obama's reelection effort outraised Republicans by better than two-to-one in the second quarter; Trump's reelection effort ran more than $20 million behind the Democrats.
When the Democrats' primary is over — their best-case scenario is probably April 2020, their worst is a fistfight that lasts until the July 2020 convention — they will inherit a far weaker and poorer party committee than Trump.
Super PACs are dead (in primaries). That was true before the quarter started, but it's even truer now. One reason the 2011 Republican totals were so low was that Mitt Romney, the party's front-runner and eventual nominee, directed megadonors to his approved super PAC, the incomprehensibly named “Restore Our Future.” In the first six months of its existence, the super PAC raised $12 million, and its resources helped Romney put away his primary opponents. (Super PACs need to disclose their finances every six months, not three, and only need to disclose by July 20.)
It's likely that super PAC money for the 2020 Democrats will never stack that high. Just two super PACs exist to support Democratic primary candidates. Dream United, launched to help Sen. Cory Booker's campaign, set a first-half goal of $5 million. With Booker himself shooing donors away, it raised just $1.1 million. We don't have a report yet for Act on Climate, which was created to help Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, but it did little after an initial $1 million ad buy.
Downballot Democrats are still raking it in. The weekly (or daily) drama inside the House Democratic conference has had no detectable effect on House members’ fundraising. In nearly every seat held by a Democratic freshman and targeted by Republicans, the freshman outraised his or her challenger.
Tom Kean, a longtime state Senate leader in New Jersey, led the GOP’s field with a more than half a million dollars in the fundraising quarter; his opponent, Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) raised close to $600,000. Republican Wesley Hunt, an African American West Point graduate who was recruited to take back Texas’s 7th Congressional District, raised more than $500,000; Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, the Democrat he's challenging, put up $565,000. David Young, who narrowly lost Iowa’s 3rd District in 2018 and is mounting a comeback, raised close to $400,000; that left him short of the $600,000 raised by Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne, who holds his old seat. Democrats got into the habit of giving to lower-profile races last year and haven't stopped.
The strongest example of this came in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District, which is holding a special election in eight weeks. Democrat Dan McCready raised $1.4 million in the quarter; Republican nominee Dan Bishop raised $662,000. Losing the 9th would take another chunk out of the GOP conference in a partially suburban district, but the small-donor cash churn just isn't keeping pace with the one Democrats built after 2016.
"Five takeaways: How the 2020 presidential candidates are raising and spending their money,” by Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy
High burn rates, robust digital spending and much more.
Reliving the 2016 election, now with sources happy to divulge their secrets.
“White identity politics drives Trump, and the Republican Party under him,” by Michael Scherer
Strategy or disaster? The president's quest for working-class white voters sheds light on his racist tweets.
A second opinion.
The legal history that the senator never talks about.
“Nancy Pelosi has lost control,” by Zach Carter
Why did an official House Democratic Twitter account go after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff?
Tom Steyer’s week-old presidential campaign has made its first push into Iowa and New Hampshire, dropping a four-page mailer.
It details every issue Steyer has advanced this year, many of them during the six months when he said he would not be a candidate — a new “bill of rights” to guarantee health care and environmental protection, congressional term limits, and national ballot referendums. And it starts his political résumé in 2012, with a successful California ballot measure that beat “greedy out-of-state corporations” and closed a tax loophole.
The mailer also emphasizes that Steyer was pulled into politics only after pledging to “contribute the majority of his fortune to advance the public good.” With a bit more color and detail than Steyer’s TV spots, the ad calls him a “self-made billionaire giving back,” saying he created (then left behind) an investment firm worth $36 billion; the precise details about his wealth are left at “billionaire.”
New Hampshire Democratic primary (St. Anselm, 351 Democrats, trendline from April)
Joe Biden — 21% (-2)
Kamala Harris — 18% ( 11)
Elizabeth Warren — 17% ( 8)
Pete Buttigieg — 12% ( 1)
Bernie Sanders — 10% (-6)
Andrew Yang — 5% ( 5)
Amy Klobuchar — 3% ( 1)
Marianne Williamson — 2% ( 2)
Cory Booker — 1% (-3)
Tulsi Gabbard — 1% ( 0)
Kirsten Gillibrand — 1% ( 0)
The first primary state has not gotten the same attention from Democrats as Iowa, for the simple (and traditional) reason that candidates who get mauled in the caucuses won't make it to New Hampshire. No one, so far, has made his or her stand in the state, like Jon Huntsman did in the 2012 Republican primary or John McCain did four years earlier. With a pretty light schedule of candidate visits, and with almost no advertising, the race has changed from a Biden vs. Sanders contest to a three-way cluster for first place — one that does not include Sanders.
The pollster's tracking of favorable ratings tells most of the story. In February, before most campaigning began, Biden was viewed favorably by 80 percent of New Hampshire Democratic voters and unfavorably by just 13 percent, a net favorable rating of 67 points. Today, Biden's net favorable rating is at 36 points — positive, but lagging behind Buttigieg (54 points), Harris (53 points) and Warren (46 points). Sanders's net favorable rating has fallen from 40 points to 26 points, while Buttigieg, Harris and Warren have all improved as they've become better known.
It's difficult for a candidate to go negative in a multi-way primary and end up increasing his support, as voters can migrate to candidates who are staying positive. So far, in one state (and one poll), Sanders has not shown evidence that he can pull this off. But it's just one poll …
New Hampshire Democratic primary (CNN/UNH, 386 Democrats, trendline from April)
Joe Biden — 24% ( 6)
Elizabeth Warren — 19% ( 14)
Bernie Sanders — 19% (-11)
Pete Buttigieg — 10% (-5)
Kamala Harris — 9% ( 5)
Cory Booker — 2% (-1)
Beto O'Rourke — 2% (-1)
Tulsi Gabbard — 1% ( 0)
Marianne Williamson — 1% ( 1)
Andrew Yang — 1% (-1)
John Delaney — 1% ( 1)
Kirsten Gillibrand — 1% ( 0)
Michael Bennet — 1% ( 1)
The slippage for Sanders and rise in support for Warren is the only consistency here. For months, Warren's relatively low support in New Hampshire raised questions about her overall viability and her campaign's decision not to buy advertising in the Boston market at the end of the 2018 midterms. But her overall recovery has been matched by a New Hampshire recovery; her net favorable here is 61 points, to 59 points for Sanders and 45 points for Biden. The Sanders team's caveat about early polling is that it does not capture the level of support with young voters he saw in 2016 or sees on the ground.
Joe Biden. He told “Morning Joe” that if the president tried to make his age or readiness an issue in the campaign, he’d ask him, “How many push-ups do you want to do here, pal?”
Michael Bennet. He used an appearance at this weekend’s Progress Iowa Corn Feed, in Cedar Rapids, to warn that a Sanders nomination would throw the election to President Trump and cost the party Colorado.
Kamala Harris. She released a plan to combat high pharmaceutical prices by punishing companies that skew them over the prices offered in other countries.
Jay Inslee. Howard Stern pronounced him “really well-spoken," though identified him as governor of “one of those states you don't even care about."
Mike Gravel. His campaign was looking at participating in an alternative to DNC debates after the chances of making the July event in Detroit diminished. “The one miscalculation we made was that we didn't expect Michael Bennet or Bill de Blasio to run," his campaign explained on Twitter. “If one of them had opted out, Mike would be going to Detroit. It annoys us deeply that so many narcissists decided this was their time, so Mike couldn't go."
Mark Sanford. The former South Carolina governor, who lost a primary challenge for his congressional seat last year, told the Charleston Post and Courier that he was considering a run for president in the Republican primary. “Sometimes in life you’ve got to say what you’ve got to say, whether there’s an audience or not for that message," he explained.
PHILADELPHIA — Two of the busiest and biggest organizing forces on the left are planning to play in the Democratic primary, vetting candidates for endorsements that would come with grass-roots campaign support.
The Working Families Party, which began in New York and has grown into a multistate campaign operation for left-wing candidates, is considering six of the 24 Democrats for its second-ever presidential endorsement. Four years ago, it got behind Bernie Sanders; this year it is encouraging Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Julián Castro and Bill de Blasio to meet with members
“Last cycle it was a binary choice, so there are orders of complexity that you have to consider when you have a big field,” said Maurice Mitchell, the WFP’s president. “There are a number of legitimate progressives in this race.”
Candidates bidding for the WFP’s endorsement will fill out questionnaires and also be expected to meet with multiple activists inside the WFP’s coalition, across a number of states — including Wisconsin, where Castro made time last week for a WFP meeting. Candidates who don’t support Medicare-for-all, a $15 minimum wage and other issues advanced by Sanders in 2016 need not apply.
“Whoever’s campaign is taking our process serious enough to really organize is the campaign and candidate that deserves our endorsement,” Mitchell said. “And listen, if you can't organize and win the WFP endorsement, it's going to be hard for you to win the overall endorsement of the Democratic Party.”
Separately, the Center for Popular Democracy Action — dozens of community organizing groups across the country, folded into one umbrella organization — is beginning to vet candidates for its first endorsement ever.
“We’ll submit a questionnaire to every candidate who wants it,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, the network president of CPD Action. “We’re going to be meeting in Detroit, right before the next Democratic debates, and only candidates who complete this questionnaire and record videos for the convention will be considered for endorsements. Then we’ll hold a straw poll at this event, with 1,800 members from all of our membership organizations, and begin narrowing this down.”
Like the WFP, the CPD is asking Democrats to meet with members of its local affiliates; some already have. Castro met with housing activists in Las Vegas, touring tunnels where homeless Nevadans were living; Booker had met with the New Georgia Project. In the fall, the CPD’s leadership will meet in person with the candidates who’ve engaged with members. In October, at the earliest, it will make an endorsement.
This week's Democratic brawl began bright and early Monday, with the 6 a.m. release of a video from Joe Biden in which he warned that candidates who wanted to implement Medicare-for-all were risking the legacy of President Barack Obama.
“I believe we have to protect and build on Obamacare,” Biden said, chastising Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris for saying they would replace nearly all private insurance with single-payer health insurance. “I understand the appeal of Medicare-for-all, but folks supporting it should be clear that it means getting rid of Obamacare. And I'm not for that. I was very proud, the day I stood next to Barack Obama, and he signed that legislation.”
Biden, who has never supported Medicare-for-all, wasn't about to do so in this primary. But the way he talked about it made his top rival campaigns furious. Like Hillary Clinton in her 2016 run, he was describing it not just as a bad plan, but as one that would throw people off insurance; while it would eliminate private plans, it would replace them.
“I have battle scars from fighting the right on Obamacare,” said Ari Rabin-Havt, Sanders's chief of staff, who worked for Harry Reid when he was Senate majority leader. “It is atrocious that Biden seems to have adopted their same tactics against single payer.”
Polling has found that Biden’s general idea, shared by most of the Democratic field, is more popular than Sanders’s legislation. Biden would allow anyone to buy into a government-run health insurance plan akin to Medicare and hike taxes on the very wealthy to subsidize people with private insurance; Sanders would, over four years, raise taxes to put all Americans into a government-run insurance plan with no premiums.
But Biden’s sales pitch has come with plenty of opprobrium for the Sanders plan. At a Monday forum on health care sponsored by AARP, Biden warned that “Medicare as you know it” would be “gone” if Sanders’s plan became law. At one point, he asked his audience for a show of hands — who had, or used to have, private insurance, and liked it? A video of the answer, quickly captured and shared by the Sanders campaign, showed most of the audience members keeping their hands down.
Sanders, who will give a speech about Medicare-for-all on Wednesday, has relished the opportunity to attack Biden. The accusation that the Sanders plan would destroy Medicare for the elderly — it would actually expand the plan’s benefits — was used against Democrats in the 2018 midterms and typically fell flat. And every Democratic candidate, Sanders included, describes their health-care plans as ways to build on the Affordable Care Act.
“Times change and we have got to go further,” Sanders told The Post’s Robert Costa in a Tuesday morning interview.
Three other Democrats (Harris, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio) have agreed with Sanders on the end goal of single-payer health care. None of them are digging in as deep as he is. The campaign's digital messaging has begun describing “Bidencare” as a system that would kill thousands of people by reducing their potential access to care, leaving tens of millions of people uninsured or underinsured. And he'll pick up the club again tomorrow, in his speech at George Washington University.
. . . 1 day until the president's next MAGA rally, in North Carolina
. . . 14 days until the second Democratic debates
. . . 56 days until the next special elections for the House of Representatives