Week 16: September 1-7

This past week was quiet. Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Kamala Harris told me how they did in August. Bernie Sanders took a leaf out of Elizabeth Warren’s book. And Pete Buttigieg went crazy on Saturday.

This has been a slow week overall.
Hello there, that’s an unusual distribution…

Cory Booker was the busiest bee this week, sending out 17 emails, but in a shocking second, Pete Buttigieg unleashed a massive 16 on my inbox. At 15, Joe Biden took up third.

Buttigieg, as many of my readers know, doesn’t email all that often. This weekend was absolutely an outlier in which he sent a massive 7 emails on Saturday, tying the one-day record of Elizabeth Warren from 6/30/19.

Buttigieg total: 9 Saturday emails.

Despite his massive email flood on Saturday, he didn’t move the needle all that much. The week was fairly typical, with a slow start (holiday, start of the month) culminating in a bunch at the end of the week. The low Friday numbers were more surprising than anything else.

We’ll get to Buttigieg later, though. Let’s look at the rest of the week…

I fixed this chart.

Remember how last week, everyone was begging for money and to hit their goals before the CRUCIAL END OF THE MONTH DEADLINE? Well… once the deadline passed, campaigns didn’t seem to care so much about letting me know how they did. Remember, the above numbers are for both donor and non-donor emails. Only 1 actually told me he’d surpassed his goal for August, and that was Joe Biden.

Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Kamala Harris all told me that they had achieved their goal (multiple times). Booker also reminded me that he had missed a goal in August.

Other than those 5 campaigns, no one bothered to let me know how they did. To be fair, a handful of campaigns hadn’t set goals, but most of them had.

And of course, a new month brings new goals, and some campaigns are already falling behind. Kamala Harris referred to her “September slump,” and an eagle-eyed Twitter user pointed me toward a news article that seemed to indicate I was right, her fundraising really is drying up. Joe Biden, who had “kicked” August’s goal, is already falling short of his new goal (multiple times). Andrew Yang acknowledged that September was a critical time for elections, but donations were slowing. And Cory Booker was starting to fret about his goal slipping away for a second time.

(And then there was Pete Buttigieg, updating me on how he was exactly on track or even slightly ahead of the track for his goal, but that’s not a thing I track because no one ever says that.)

Fixed this one too.

Thankfully, “Thank you” was the most common rhetorical device for the week. Even when campaigns didn’t tell me about their goals, many of them did remember to thank me for helping out (or not, as the case may be). It’s worth noting that this Thank You count DOES NOT INCLUDE if an email says “Thanks,” “We’re grateful for,” “We appreciate you,” or “Thank you” as part of the last line before the sign off. It’s easy to close an email with a thank you, or to throw out a casual thanks. I was only counting the emails that actually made a point of saying Thank you in their body. If I had included those other references of gratitude, that number would be incredibly high.

We did have Julian Castro humbly being humble again this week. I would like to ban that word from his vocabulary for a week and see how far he gets.

I’d also like to ban all versions of “arbitrary” from Michael Bennet’s vocabulary, as he once again (three times again) railed against the arbitrary rules of the DNC that are stifling the American voice.

Remember, Sunday was just after a huge fundraising push and Monday was a holiday.

Donation asks were low this week due to the makeup of the week, but they still crested over 50% of the emails. There were some interesting ways of asking for money. Some of them were familiar: one candidate was asking me to make a donation so my name could be added to the Donor Wall in their headquarters. Sounds like Elizabeth Warren, right?

We are doing something pretty special at campaign headquarters next week, and I want to ask you be a part of it. Give me a chance to explain:

As you can imagine, the area outside my office can get pretty busy. Staff, guests, press, and occasionally Bernie are stopping in and out almost every day.

And right outside that office is a HUGE wall — we’re talking 30 feet long and 10 feet high.

It is a wall just long enough to fit a poster showing all of the names, cities, and states of the first 1 million people who have contributed to our campaign.

So that’s what we’re going to do, and we’d LOVE to have YOUR name on it.

Can Bernie count on you to make your first $2.70 online contribution today? We’ll add your name to our new donor wall listing the first 1 million contributors to our campaign – a piece that will serve as the centerpiece of campaign HQ.

The names of everyone who has contributed will form the words, “Not Me. Us.” — because there is simply no better way to drive home the point that this campaign is not about one person, it’s about what all of us are capable of. Together.

Faiz Shakir, Campaign Manager, Bernie 2020

You’d be wrong. Bernie Sanders thought Elizabeth Warren’s donor wall was such a good idea that he simply had to do one himself. A major difference, however, is that Sanders’ wall will include everyone who makes up their first million donors. That means that even though I donated way back in June, I will be up on that wall because I helped get him to 1 million donors. This is unheard of among campaigns. Many of them have offered membership cards, for example, but only to people who made NEW donations. Even Warren’s donor wall was for people who made donations after she had announced it was a thing. Sanders is the first campaign to retroactively include the first donors in his donor recognition thing.

Some campaigns were completely unsurprising in their asks.

NPR: Upcoming debates could be Castro’s last

I need to level with you:

— I was the final candidate to make the cut for this week’s debate
— NPR just warned this round of debates could be my last
— But I have every intention of proving them wrong

I’m fighting for a spot in the next round against extremely wealthy candidates — who are spending millions of their personal money to fast-track their way ahead of me.

Julian Castro

That first line should be twice as tall and in red font. This is a Serious Problem Castro is dealing with, after all.

I almost hate to point out to him that the two candidates spending millions of their personal money to fast-track their way ahead of Castro both failed to qualify for the September debates, so, you know… that’s not a thing yet. (As of the time of this writing, Tom Steyer had qualified for the October debates, but not as of the time of this email.)

One email that did surprise me was the one from Toby Ziegler Richard Schiff.

Hi there —

You might remember me as Toby Ziegler, the communications director from the West Wing. He was called ornery and he was certainly flawed but in the end he was much loved. Why? Because he fought hard to do the right thing and wanted to leave the world a better place than he found it. As did his boss, President Bartlett.

During this dark Trump era, it is easy to find yourself wishing we could be led by President Bartlett instead.

Sadly, President Bartlett is just a TV character. But luckily, Joe Biden is real and he is running for president.

Richard Schiff, for Biden for President

Schiff went on to talk about how no one in Washington comes as close to the fictional Bartlett as does Biden. This makes the second West Wing actor speaking out for a candidate and making some Bartlett comparisons. Biden has Toby, but Pete Buttigieg snagged Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) months ago.

As a West Wing fan myself, I feel the obligation to point out that Bartlett graduated from South Bend’s Notre Dame University, and Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend.

But let’s talk about what you’re really all here to read about: Buttigieg’s fundraising drive.

It is entirely Buttigieg’s fault that Fundraising is so high this week.

On Saturday morning, at 8:10 AM ET, the first email from Pete Buttigieg dropped into my donor inbox. A matching one fell into my non-donor inbox a moment later. With the innocuous subject of “Phase Three,” it seemed perfectly innocent.

We knew coming into this campaign that its early stages would unfold in roughly three phases.

The first was to convince Americans that a small-town Mayor with a funny-sounding Maltese name was a viable candidate for President. On the strength of our vision, the urgency of our convictions, and some help from phonetic pronunciation (BOOT-edge-edge), we’ve done that. We’ve climbed in the polls and been on two debate stages, and now, we continue to earn opportunities to share our plans with more and more Americans — plans to build a prosperous future for us all.

The second was to show that we’ve got grassroots energy on our side. We posted the strongest fundraising total of the whole quarter — and we did it competing with well-established candidates. We are building a new kind of campaign, and Americans are showing their support by personally investing in this vision.

Now it’s time for Phase Three. This is the phase where we harness our vision for taking on urgent, generational fights — and turn it into the kind of person-to-person organizing that wins support and leads to people caucusing and voting for my campaign.

But scaling a campaign — and scaling it as quickly as we have — takes resources. People. Buildings. Equipment. We need to raise a lot of money to build a campaign strong enough to win a new era, and that’s why I’m writing today.

Pete Buttigieg

Okay, I thought, he wants some money. Typical fundraising email.

Here’s what we’re thinking: We’re challenging ourselves to raise $750,000 by midnight. That won’t get us all the way to what we need for more offices, or for all the hires we need to make. But it’ll go a long way, and I’d be grateful if you chipped in.

Pete Buttigieg

Here’s where I choked. $750,000 by midnight? That must have been a typo.

It’s worth noting that I have donated to Buttigieg via my personal email, and I did receive a variant of this message in that inbox. However, that email requested 40,000 donations by midnight, a much more doable goal, in my opinion.

Just to underline how impossible Buttigieg’s goal is, it’s one of the top 5 fundraising goals ever since I began tracking campaign emails.

This is just from this past week.

Other goals that were greater than Buttigieg’s included

  • Andrew Yang: Raise $3,500,000 in Q2 (3 months)
  • Kamala Harris: Raise $1,000,000 in 6 days (first debate occurred during these 6 days, raised over $2 million in 24 hours after the debate)
  • Andrew Yang: Raise $1,500,000 in 7 days (original goal: $300,000 in 7 days, second debate occurred during these 7 days, blown past in 2 days, goal then raised to $1,000,000, hit with a couple days to spare, no email of completion but emails of concern with hours to go.)

That’s it. No other campaign set a financial goal of $750,000 or greater, none of them set a 24-hour goal for that amount, and none of them set a goal “just because.” They all focused on either the debate schedule or the end of the month.

And then along came Buttigieg.

You’ll hear from others on the team today about Phase Three, and I’m thankful for your attention to our strategy. We’re thinking big, and the only way to achieve big things is to pursue them together.

Pete Buttigieg

This was another first for a campaign: he gave a heads-up that there would be more emails about this fundraising push incoming.

For the record, I did donate to the first email on my personal account. Green here is donor account.

I was not prepared.

It’s worth noting the four different “senders.” Buttigieg himself, Mike Schmuhl, his campaign manager, Chasten Buttigieg, his husband, and Pete for America, his campaign staff. Each of these senders had a different voice to their emails, lending credence to the fact that they were probably written by different people and probably even written by the people who signed their names to the email.

Mike Schmuhl is honestly my least favorite Pete for America staffer to get an email from. There are some reoccurring names of staffers in my inbox who make me sigh and roll my eyes. I’m not very fond of Sanders’ Faiz Shakir either, nor Tulsi Gabbard’s sister, Vrindavan. But anyway. Schmuhl’s email, which arrived at 10:07 AM ET, was… uninspiring.

We’re in it to win it in the Granite State on our way to the nomination. And it’ll mean putting in the work: going town to town, talking person to person.

For our campaign, this is Phase Three. We’ve been talking about it all week, and Pete emailed you earlier. It’s a major escalation of the kind of grassroots, go-everywhere campaigning that will win the nomination and the presidency.

But here’s the reality: Building a strong campaign costs a lot. We’re always up front about why we set fundraising goals, like $750,000 in a day. That’s the reason: Winning means putting teams on the ground and funding them until they turn out the lights after the final votes are cast.

Mike Schmuhl, Campaign Manager, Pete for America

It wasn’t bad, it was just pretty basic. A standard email that any campaign could have sent and I wouldn’t have batted an eye at it.

But then two hours later, at 12:09 PM ET, Chasten sent an email.

Just as Schmuhl is one of my meh emailers, Chasten is one of my favorites. I can’t help but smile when I read his emails. I also like the Pete for America staffers Greta Carnes and Raven Hollins, but PFA isn’t the only campaign with good writers. Beto O’Rourke himself has written some of my all time favorite campaign emails, and his digital director Rob Flaherty comes across as just a great, fun-loving guy who likes to kid around as he gets his job done. Cory Booker’s campaign manager, Addisu Demissie, is also pretty good with his emails. He can come across as fondly exasperated and charmed with Booker, like a child groaning at their parent’s dad jokes and still loving how incredible they are and all they’re doing.

But Chasten is easily the best writer among the campaign spouses.

Hey there,

It’s me again. I’m writing you from a trip around New Hampshire. Peter and I were just at the Democratic Party State Convention and are spending the rest of the day opening offices with the campaign team. I’m proud to be out here on the trail for Peter, but (you guessed it) I need your help.

Our team has set a very ambitious goal of raising $750,000 by midnight for what we’re calling “Phase Three.” When we thought about setting such a big goal, we knew we’d have to push ourselves. We knew we’d need everyone to dig deep to give as much as they could. But we believed we could do it, because from the day Peter launched, you’ve done the hard work of turning hope into reality.

By chipping in today, you’ll be part of sending us into the next phase of the campaign on a high note. We’ll go into it showing we’re in this together, and we’re doing it for one another.

Thank YOU for all you do for this community. It makes a difference. All of it.

Chasten Buttigieg, Pete for America

This email itself isn’t one of Chasten’s best, but he did first acknowledge that the goal was ridiculously large. There was a little tongue-in-cheek (you guessed it) at the start.

And then there were the tweets. These were highlighted by one of my own Twitter followers:

Link cut off.

The first tweet made me smile (a humanizing touch). The second made me smile more. He was gently mocking the apocalyptic tone of campaign emails and reassuring his followers that this deadline isn’t going to make or break the campaign. It’s just nice.

So many times when I’m talking about political emails, I get people scoffing and saying “Yeah, just let me know when a candidate says they have enough money and doesn’t go ‘HELP ME HIT MY DEADLINE!'” I think of tweets like this one from Chasten and just smile sadly at them for not realizing that there is such a hidden depth to political emails.

At 5:14 PM ET, just over 9 hours since the first email, the generic staff sent me an update.

Earlier this week, we announced the campaign was moving into its next stage: Phase Three. Then this morning, Pete — followed by Mike and Chasten — asked for your help raising $750,000 by midnight to go into this next season strong.

We’re happy to report: We’re more than halfway there!

Pete for America

$750,000 goal. More than halfway there. In 9 hours, the team had raised more than $375,000.

To put this in context, Joe Biden has been struggling to raise $250,000 over this entire week.

Also to put this in context, many campaigns never told me how much they were even trying to raise in the month of August, much less how much they actually did raise. Buttigieg hasn’t been shy about giving me concrete numbers.

At 7:33 PM ET, the staff sent out another email reminding me that a fundraising push was ongoing.

Hey there,

So what’s this Phase Three we’ve been talking about all week? It’s the ground-game stage of the campaign, where we send out organizers to knock on doors, make calls, and be the faces of a community-driven campaign.

It’s not the easy way of doing things. But it’s the winning way and underscored by unity — that’s how Pete would govern, too.

From the moment Pete announced, we’ve made transparency a core value of this campaign — especially transparency about what we stand for and how we pursue it.

So here’s what’s coming: We’re putting 100 organizers in Iowa and 60 organizers in New Hampshire. They’ll be based out of offices in communities across both states. Each of those organizers can have dozens of conversations over the span of a day about Pete’s vision for our country, adding up to thousands upon thousands in a week.

That’s why Pete, Chasten, and Mike have all reached out. Raising $750,000 tonight will go a long way toward hiring those organizers and opening those offices. Can you chip in a donation now to help us hit this goal and power Phase Three of our campaign?

Our organizers talk to friends, family, neighbors, classmates, third cousins — you name it. Anyone to build an authentic network determined to win an era.

It’s all big and ambitious, but that’s what we’ve been from the beginning. It’s what Pete believes it will take to meet the challenges facing our country, too.

Phase Three is a turning point. Phase Three is where we win this thing. And that’s why we’re raising $750,000 by midnight tonight, with your help. Donate whatever you can now to help get us there!

Pete for America

While not an update email, this did slip in something that I’ve wanted to talk about but struggled to find an appropriate email to interject with.

They’re building an “authentic network.”

I heard about this move from Buttigieg’s team, and it’s been fascinating. Many of you have heard of phone banking before: that’s when a group of volunteers gets a list of phone numbers from the campaign and calls them up and tells them about the candidate or cause and tries to increase awareness and/or lock in a vote. Phone banking is as much a part of the political campaign as door knocking.

It’s also, I’m sure, becoming much harder. Be honest: do you answer your phone if you don’t recognize the number? If you live in one of the early states, I’m sure you’ve already had your phone ringing off the hook as every campaign tries to call you. Telemarketers are bad enough. Political telemarketers…

Buttigieg has been phone banking differently. His campaign gathers interested volunteers, then has them make their own lists. Instead of going into the Democratic party voter records to get the numbers of people who may be amenable to hearing about him, he has his volunteers write down numbers of their friends and family, and then has them call those people. Instead of getting a call from a stranger, the undecideds are getting a call from someone they know. Someone they trust. So when that person instigates a conversation about a political candidate… hey, they’ll probably listen, at least.

I don’t know the statistics of phone banking, either normally or Buttigieg’s way, but speaking as someone with a phone, I’d be much more likely to answer the phone for someone I knew than a random number that probably wants to tell me my car warranty has expired but they can sell me a new one.

At 9:23 PM ET, I received the second donor email of the day, this one from Mike Schmuhl again.

Hi there — emailing you again quickly to let you know where we stand on this $750,000 goal for Phase Three of our campaign. In less than 12 hours, we’re already 75% of the way to the goal. This is pretty incredible, and I’m grateful but not surprised. You’ve helped Pete hit a lot of milestones, and I know this is another one we can reach.

Raising $750,000 — solely from grassroots donors — will go a long, long way in helping put a combined 160 organizers on the ground in Iowa and New Hampshire, along with dozens of offices and all the resources that go into executing these ground operations. We’re doing it in 24 hours because the work in those states has already begun. I just saw it for myself in New Hampshire.

Mike Schmuhl, Campaign Manager, Pete for America

The “less than 12 hours” seems to imply that he’s counting from the time of the first email (which was technically more than twelve hours ago, but he has to write the email and get it in the system and get it set up to be blasted out to the mailing list…). That means that the 24-hour goal is really more of a 16-hour goal.

And the campaign raised $562,500 in 12 hours.

Schmuhl also pointed out that this fundraising push was coming solely from grassroots donors. Buttigieg gets hit a lot for taking money from billionaires or having fundraisers with huge price tags, but if the numbers being given in these emails are at all accurate, he clearly has a huge grassroots base eager to give to him.

At 11:13 PM ET, I received the seventh and final email of the night from Buttigieg, specifically from the staff account.

Pete’s entire campaign is based on the idea that, together, we can do big things. That we need to do big things.

And with the resources we’ve raised together in the past 24 hours, we’re going to be able to kickstart our Phase Three organizing plans. It’s a huge, huge deal.

So as midnight closes in, here’s your update: We’re 90% of the way to our goal. And we’ll be honest: As important as every dollar is, we don’t have to hit precisely $750,000. But this number’s symbolic. It says, we can do big things, so long as we do them together.

Are you all in for hitting this goal? If you are, chip in now to push us over the top.

Pete for America

90% of the goal in less than 24 hours. $675,000. That’s more money in less time than anyone else in the campaign asked for. And that’s making me eat my shock from earlier at the size of the goal.

This email also echoed Chasten’s tweets. As important as every dollar is, we don’t have to hit precisely $750,000. The campaign is acknowledging that the goal was really an arbitrary number just meant to show their supporters’ strength. Not making the goal doesn’t mean their supporters let them down or that they’ll have to make huge budget cuts.

Many campaigns talk about transparency and being honest with me. Joe Biden famously talked about being honest even as I was pretty sure he was lying about being out of ad money five times last month. Buttigieg’s campaign doesn’t just talk about it. They show it.

Campaigns also talk about bringing America together and uniting America behind one goal. Usually, it’s ‘defeat Donald Trump.’ Then they say they’re struggling with this goal.

Buttigieg served up a goal to unite behind and unquestionably succeeded.

I heard about a handful of complaints from this surge of emails from Buttigieg, though I was fascinated to watch it unfold throughout the day. I wasn’t as upset with him as I usually am because he had warned me in advance, a measure of inbox respect that no one else ever gives me. And the most unbelievable thing happened. Among my Twitter followers, many of whom were sporting 4Pete handles, complaints started rolling in about people who weren’t getting ENOUGH of his emails. A Pete for America staffer had to reassure his followers that there would be more emails to come.

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a political campaign where people were sad that they didn’t get spammed.

Andrew Yang has hit 100 emails!

If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read so far, consider supporting me on Ko-Fi. But Their Emails! merch is also available on for purchase here!

9 thoughts on “Week 16: September 1-7

  1. Loved your in-depth look at Pete’s email blast! My favorite posts are those where you seem to genuinely appreciate a candidate’s email approach or tone, be it Beto or Pete or anybody else. Keep up the good work!


  2. I know I made a couple of sizable donations yesterday (one as I waited for my performance of Hamilton to begin). I’m a regular donor and I do make additional donations in response to specific “asks” from Pete For America, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. They respect my inbox and they don’t BS me about the reason for the ask. An arbitrary goal? Cool. But only because you told me it WAS arbitrary, and gave me a reason for the goal. If I ever get an ask for some dire emergency (can’t imagine what that might be, but let’s say another 500-year flood wipes out campaign HQ), I won’t hesitate (other than to confirm that it’s genuine) to pitch in, with the appropriate sense of urgency.


    1. Yeah, I respect them more for their honesty. Of course they’re going to ask for money. It’s a political campaign. I’m not stupid. I don’t need a song and dance to give. I just need to trust you.


  3. You know what was different for me? Hoping that they got that goal…was actually looking for the email to tell me it happened.

    Can’t wait to travel to Des Moines to be there to support Pete to win Iowa!! #barnstormersforpete

    P.S.- Chasten’s emails are always the best!!!


    1. I just got an email from Chasten with a GRAMMATICAL ERROR IN THE SUBJECT.

      Well, just got. I got it yesterday. I just entered it into my database.

      HOW DARE HE?

      Jokes aside, you’re absolutely right. I like seeing campaigns reach their goals, and this one was especially uplifting because they were so positive the entire time. No “it’s not looking good,” just a swell of “YESSSSS, WE’RE DOING IT!”

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I was having fun reading all the comments. I tweeted a quick recap myself and had people demanding to know what was in emails they didn’t get. Several people signed up under fresh email accounts that they wouldn’t donate with just so they could get his emails.

      And people think all political emails are the same…


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