Normally, there are only two real reasons to run for president. One, you actually think you have a half-decent shot of winning the thing. Two, you think you can use it as a platform to raise your political profile, “get famous,” and maybe sell some books along the way. We won’t try to peer into the minds of the 25+ Democratic candidates to determine who is doing what, but there are plenty of people in the crowd with absolutely no shot of winning the nomination.
And, if the latest fundraising numbers are any indication, they aren’t doing much to boost their own profiles, either. In fact, their collective fundraising vs. money-spent calculations make many of these candidacies little more than self-funded vanity projects.
Eleven Democratic presidential candidates — nearly half of the sprawling field — spent more campaign cash than they raised in the second quarter of the year, according to new financial disclosures filed Monday. Eight contenders active in the spring limped forward with less than $1 million in cash on hand, and several top-tier contenders were already spending multiples of what their lower-profile competitors raised.
The financial squeeze is set to drastically shrink the lineup of Democratic contenders in the coming months, barring major shifts in momentum, as candidates grapple with the doldrums of summer fundraising and the high costs of staffing national campaigns and building donor lists big enough to qualify for future Democratic National Committee debates. The numbers also reveal the tremendous pressure on lesser-known candidates to make a splash in the debates at the end of this month — potentially the last chance some will have to attract a burst of support as their expenses pile up.
Among the losers are some unsurprising names:
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was nearly booed off the stage in California for denouncing socialism, spent $500,000 more in the second quarter than he brought in through donations.
Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro got a bit of a fundraising bounce after the debates, but it didn’t keep him from running through 80% of the money he’s raised, leaving him with only about $1 million in the bank.
No surprise to see Andrew Yang and Bill de Blasio languishing in the $1 million department.
But then there are those candidates who seemed like they might have a shot to break through at one point: Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and Beto O’Rourke. And yet all of them spent more money in the second quarter than they brought in through fundraising.
Fact is, you can run in the face of bad polling for as long as you can stand the humiliation. But you can only run in the red, monetarily, for so long. Before the summer is out, a great many of these also-rans are going to have to find something else to do with their lives. Being president just isn’t in the cards.