Former Texas Congressman Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign raised $3.7 million in the second quarter of this year – far less than the roughly $6 million that his campaign said it collected on the first day of his candidacy.
When O’Rourke got into the race four months ago at the urging of fans, he was expected to be a magnet for political donations, having raised $80 million for his unsuccessful Senate race in Texas last year. During the first 17 days of his presidential campaign, he raised $9.4 million.
But O’Rourke’s lackluster fundraising for the three-month period ending June 30 shows how far his star has fallen and highlights the challenge he faces to remain competitive in the crowded Democratic field.
O’Rourke announced his latest fundraising total in a tweet late Monday night, hours before it would be made public on a financial filing. The total had been kept secret from many campaign staffers and prominent supporters, and even the candidate recently claimed to be unaware of how much money his campaign had collected.
Candidates polling near the top of the field all reported drawing at least $10 million during the same three-month period, federal filings made public Monday night show.
The top fundraisers seeking the Democratic nomination so far, based on federal filings and self-reported figures are South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg ($24.8 million); former Vice President Joe Biden ($21.5 million); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts ($19.1 million); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (about $18 million); Sen. Kamala Harris of California (nearly $12 million).
O’Rourke’s haul is comparable to that of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who drew $3.9 million, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat who raised $3 million.
O’Rourke spent money at a faster clip than he raised – spending $5.2 million while raising $3.7 million. Of the money he raised, 44.4% came in donations of $200 or less. O’Rourke has raised $13 million since launching his presidential campaign, and he entered the third quarter with $5.2 million.
O’Rourke, who kicked off his campaign on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, has struggled to establish himself among roughly two dozen Democratic hopefuls. He has tried to fight being labeled as inexperienced and entitled. During the first debate in late June, O’Rourke was attacked by fellow Democrats and struggled to directly answer questions, leading to widespread criticism and concern among his top donors.
He started attending high-price fundraisers and privately courting donors – things that his aides had once bragged to reporters that their candidate didn’t need to do.
O’Rourke’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, on Monday sounded an optimistic note about the candidate’s chances, writing in a memo to supporters: “When you look at our fundraising in aggregate, we’re in a great position. I won’t sugar coat it: we have work to do, but we have the resources we need to execute our strategy.”
She added: “I’ve been here before. Hell, if I had a dollar for every time I was on a campaign that seemed left for dead, I’d probably exceed our average contribution.”
O’Rourke is poised to qualify for the Democratic debates later this month and in September. But those who are watching his campaign said that his lagging polling and fundraising raise the stakes greatly for his debate performance at the end of July.
“I’m a great admirer of Beto O’Rourke’s, but he has to perform the third act of ‘Aida’ in the next debate to be considered a serious prospect again,” said Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee member and Democratic fundraiser. “Beto O’Rourke’s dynamicism against Ted Cruz elevated him dramatically. He’s on a stage now with equally dynamic Democrats with much of the same message.”
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Jenna Johnson, Michelle Ye Hee Lee