Dem pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls make fi­nal fundrais­ing push

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD - By Michelle Ye Hee Lee

WASH­ING­TON — Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates are sprint­ing to hit their fundrais­ing goals be­fore the end of the year, a fi­nal test of their fi­nan­cial strength be­fore pri­mary vot­ing be­gins in Fe­bru­ary.

While can­di­dates typ­i­cally bom­bard sup­port­ers dur­ing the last days of the fundrais­ing quar­ter, their ap­peals this week come with a sense of ur­gency: The fig­ures will sig­nal to sup­port­ers and donors whether the can­di­dates can sur­vive the ex­pen­sive early pri­maries.

So a few cam­paigns are tak­ing a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to gen­er­ate money over the next few days.

In an email to sup­port­ers Fri­day, Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, D-Mass., one of the top rais­ers of the cam­paign so far, an­nounced that she had amassed over $17 mil­lion, about two-thirds of her pre­vi­ous quar­terly to­tal.

Can­di­dates typ­i­cally keep a tight lid on their hauls un­til af­ter the fundrais­ing dead­line passes. But War­ren’s cam­paign made its fig­ure public, then asked sup­port­ers to help the cam­paign hit $20 mil­lion in the next few days.

On Christ­mas Eve, Pete But­tigieg’s cam­paign launched a con­test for sup­port­ers to do­nate the small­est amount pos­si­ble. “All you have to do to win is do­nate the small­est amount that no­body else do­nates. In other words, sup­pose you do­nate $1.00. If some­one else play­ing also do­nated ex­actly $1, you both lose. We’ll see if only one player do­nated $1.01, and so on un­til we find an amount do­nated ex­actly once, and that’s our win­ner,” the email reads.

The South Bend, In­di­ana, mayor’s cam­paign team billed it as a fun and geeky end-of-year game, in which sup­port­ers can chal­lenge each other to do­nate the low­est amount. But the chal­lenge drew ridicule among skep­tics, who called it a “cyn­i­cal ploy” to drive down the cam­paign’s av­er­age do­na­tion amount amid crit­i­cisms of But­tigieg’s fre­quent fundraiser­s with wealthy donors.

This year’s large field of can­di­dates, along with de­bate qual­i­fi­ca­tion rules that em­pha­size the can­di­dates’ abil­ity to draw donors, have led to un­usual can­dor among can­di­dates about how strapped for cash they are.

Can­di­dates have pleaded with their sup­port­ers for cash, and they have even an­nounced that they would shut­ter their cam­paigns if they do not meet a cer­tain fundrais­ing tar­get. Th­ese tac­tics have worked so far for many, in­clud­ing Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., whose 10-day push at the end of the third quar­ter brought in a much-needed boost in do­na­tions.

The last day of the fundrais­ing quar­ter is Tues­day; the cam­paigns’ fi­nance fil­ings are made public through the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion on Jan. 31.

But can­di­dates with large hauls typ­i­cally re­veal their fig­ures early, set­ting the bar for the rest of the field and gen­er­at­ing buzz around their fi­nances. Can­di­dates who hold off on re­veal­ing their numbers of­ten face ques­tions about their de­lay.

Long­time cam­paign fundraiser­s say the first two pri­mary con­tests could cost up­ward of $75 mil­lion per can­di­date, and fundrais­ing and spend­ing fig­ures could in­di­cate whether the cam­paigns will have enough money to face off on Super Tues­day in March.

CHAR­LIE NEIBERGALL/AP

Can­di­date Pete But­tigieg is chal­leng­ing con­trib­u­tors to do­nate the small­est amount.

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