Beto O’Rourke will report raising about $3.6 million from April through June, a startlingly small sum for a candidate whose presidential campaign once appeared ascendant and who raised massive amounts of money for his 2018 Senate race.
The total, which O’Rourke’s campaign will send to supporters tonight in an email, is less than half of the $9.4 million O’Rourke raised in the first quarter of the year, and well below the $6.1 million O’Rourke raised In the 24 hours after he announced his presidential campaign in March, which raised early expectations for his campaign.
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O’Rourke, after a blistering start, has flatlined in low single digits in public opinion polls. And his relatively weak fundraising reflects the challenge he will face regaining a foothold in the race.
In the email, obtained by POLITICO, O’Rourke’s campaign confirmed he has amassed enough small donors to meet the threshold necessary to qualify for the fall presidential debates — a lifeline for his campaign and a major advantage over other low-polling candidates.
The September debate threshold — 130,000 donors, plus a showing of at least 2 percent in four polls — is likely to significantly winnow the primary field.
O’Rourke’s campaign said his more than $3.6 million in second-quarter donations came from 199,899 contributions, with an average donation of $30. Fully 99 percent of his fundraising came online, his campaign said. Nearly half of his contributors in the quarter — 48 percent — were new donors to O’Rourke’s presidential campaign, and 98 percent of his donations were below $200.
“When you look at our fundraising in aggregate, we’re in a great position,” Jen O’Malley Dillon, his campaign manager, wrote in the email. “I won’t sugar coat it: we have work to do, but we have the resources we need to execute our strategy.”
Still, the quarterly fundraising total — a significant measure of a campaign’s viability — was deflating for even many of O’Rourke’s allies, who had privately raised alarms in recent days about O’Rourke raising far less than expected.
O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, had been considered formidable as a presidential candidate in large part because he raised more than $80 million in his near-miss Texas Senate run last year.
But O’Rourke’s fundraising machine quickly sputtered. In the second quarter, he not only raised less than in the first quarter of this year — but also less than in any of the four quarters in 2018 in which he was a Senate candidate.
O’Rourke’s advisers and allies have maintained that he has time to improve his standing in the primary. He has continued with his furious schedule of town hall meetings and events, and he has recently hired a raft of well-respected operatives at his El Paso headquarters and in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
O’Rourke’s campaign said Monday that it would expand to 11 field offices in Iowa by the end of the week.
But O’Rourke is now raising money at a clip closer to second-tier candidates than to the frontrunners he once ran alongside.
The five Democrats consistently polling ahead of O’Rourke — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg — combined to raise about $100 million.
O’Rourke nevertheless raised more than several lesser-known contenders.
Julián Castro, O’Rourke’s fellow Texan; Sen. Michael Bennett of Colorado; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, each raised about $2.8 million, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock raised $2 million in the second fundraising quarter.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper raised about $1.2 million.