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Eye On Candidates
October 16, 2015

Third-Quarter Fundraising Stratifies the Candidates

All the candidates for president have filed their fundraising reports for the third quarter with the Federal Election Commission, and the general view is that candidates have separated into three distinct categories: those raising enough money to mount credible campaigns in the early nominating contests as well as the later caucuses and primaries; those raising enough to fund one- or two-state campaigns in Iowa and/or New Hampshire and hoping to use early success in order to propel them into contention; and those struggling to raise enough money to put the candidate on a plane and afford even a skeleton staff. Politico provides an overview of the reports this morning:

Cash-rich Clinton towers over the GOP field

Republican and Democratic presidential candidates hauled in an enormous $144 million in the third quarter of 2015 but the vast majority of the money flowed into only a handful of campaigns, leaving the 2016 race distinctively stratified into the haves, the have-notes[sic] and the hopeless.

Hillary Clinton paced both parties, ending September with $33 million in the bank. But her chief challenger, Bernie Sanders, was close behind with $27.1 million on hand, and he touted raising another $3.2 million since this week’s debate. No other Democrat had as much as $1 million in their coffers.

Of the sprawling 15-candidate Republican field, the latest Federal Election Commission filings show just five contenders with the kind of $10 million-plus treasury that most political operatives consider necessary to mount a serious national campaign: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and, on the basis of his ability to tap into his much-bragged about personal wealth, Donald Trump. Only one other GOP candidate, Carly Fiorina with $5.5 million, had more than $3 million in campaign cash remaining.

Fiorina’s fundraising appears to have picked up dramatically since her two widely praised debate performances, and the article suggests she might climb into the top tier in terms of fundraising as well:

She had raised only $325,000 in contributions above $200 in the first 35 days of July and August leading up to the first debate, when she was relegated to the undercard contest. But after her standout performance there, she lapped that figure in less than 48 hours. And in the two weeks after the second debate, when she joined the main stage and stood up to Trump, she averaged $100,000 per day in itemized contributions, suggesting she could yet fund a national campaign.

While Fiorina seems to have one foot in the top tier and one in the second tier, two other candidates seem firmly entrenched in the second:

Chris Christie and John Kasich, each of whom are basing their campaigns largely on winning New Hampshire, disclosed campaign fundraising figures for the first time, raising $4.2 million and $4.3 million respectively. Kasich spent less, ending with $2.6 million to Christie’s $1.4 million.

And then there are candidates struggling to remain or even become relevant, according to Politico:

Rand Paul burned through $2 million more than he raised and ended with $2.1 million on hand, but owed debts of more than $365,000. Paul’s top strategists issued a memo Thursday pushing back against the “false narrative” that Paul is “on the ropes.”

Bobby Jindal ended the quarter with a mere $260,000 in cash. Jindal’s monthly payroll tops $100,000 and he must still pay to get on the ballot across the country. In the last three months, Jindal spent $1.56 for every $1 he raised at a time when most campaigns are trying to grow their bottom line.

And then there is Lincoln Chafee, the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat whose debate performance this week was widely panned. He raised the least: $15,457.

The article also notes that Trump, despite his lack of fundraising efforts, managed to bring in nearly $4 million in unsolicited contributions.

The Washington Post has a couple of articles on several of the candidate’s fundraising results and what it means for them. Here are some excerpts from an article concerning former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley:

Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley reported late Thursday night that his campaign raised only $1.3 million during the latest fundraising quarter, a performance that raises serious questions about his ability to compete heading into the first nominating contests next year.

O'Malley's take was a mere fraction of what was raised by the two leading Democratic contenders. His campaign said it had only $805,986 in the bank heading into October — hardly enough to mount a sustained television advertising campaign.

Moreover, O'Malley's campaign spent about $500,000 more than it raised between July and September, a pace that it can't sustain without running out of money.

A quick look at the math suggests O’Malley spent about $600,000 a month during the third quarter, a pace that would likely leave him with nothing in the bank right about the time the Iowa caucuses occur in early February.

Another Post article suggests Bush’s campaign fundraising is far short of the “shock and awe” that was once envisioned:

Jeb Bush entered the presidential race as the “shock and awe” candidate whose fundraising dominance was poised to make his campaign an unstoppable juggernaut.

He is not that candidate anymore.

After reporting Thursday that he has less cash in the bank than three other Republican candidates, Bush effectively cemented his status as just another aspirant in a presidential race where the surest predictions have been proven wrong time and again.

Over in The Hill is an analysis piece that seeks to summarize the state of the GOP candidates’ fundraising for the third quarter, including these observations:

Many candidates are running lean operations in the 2016 race, and that's smart given the large field and the uncertainty of the race.

But lean campaigns often cannot scale up quickly enough when their moment comes, a problem we have seen for the Donald Trump (R), Carly Fiorina (R) and Ben Carson (R) campaigns in particular…

Cruz and Rubio are both running the most efficient campaigns with the lowest burn-rates among the top tier candidates. Fiorina is also running a very efficient campaign.

The campaigns of Govs. John Kasich (Ohio) and Chris Christie (N.J.) raised similar amounts and have similar cash on hand and will be in a steel-cage death match in New Hampshire.

The cash on hand numbers show a marginal difference, with Bush having $10.3 million, Rubio $11 million, Carson $11.5 million and Cruz $13.5 million. One of these four individuals, plus Trump, is most likely to be the ultimate nominee.

Those five may indeed be among the “most likely” nominees, with Christie, Kasich, and perhaps Paul occupying the second tier and Fiorina above the second tier but below the first. On the Democratic side, it’s clearly a contest between Clinton and Sanders, and potentially Vice President Joe Biden if he decides to enter the race. There is no Democratic second tier.

Everyone not in the first or second tier is likely going to face some tough decisions in the next few months over whether they have a viable path to the nomination. For a few of them the answer may be yes, but for most it’s probably time to pack it in.