Thursday brought some excitement (and desperation) from Michael Bennet and budget woes from Elizabeth Warren, but it was Pete Buttigieg who made me pay attention.
For all new readers: Welcome! I am currently on the mailing lists of Joe Biden and Donald Trump, though I have previously been on the mailing lists of 28 Democratic candidates! This blog breaks down recent emails with charts and excerpts. If you already know all of this, feel free to skip to the next chart!
It took some time for the Trump emails to kick in, so I started officially tracking his list on July 7. I have been tracking Biden’s for longer, but I will start comparing them as of July 7. All of these emails are going to a new email, and I have not donated, filled out surveys, signed petitions, or otherwise interacted with either candidate’s emails.
The rules I try to follow for the various categories are laid out in The Framework.
Pete Buttigieg topped out at 5 emails on Thursday, which I have to call “manageable” these days. Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, and Amy Klobuchar all sent 4 emails, while Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren each sent 3.
Pete Buttigieg is turning 38 on Sunday, so his campaign pushed out a reminder to sign his birthday card. Tulsi Gabbard asked me if I was sick of people lying to me about the endless wars and included a video of her presumably talking about how she would end them. Michael Bennet sent me a clip of James Carville on MSNBC praising him.
“If Michael Bennet is the Democratic nominee, you’re going to get 55% of the popular vote and pick up 55 Senate seats, and it will be the end of Trumpism. Trumpism doesn’t have to just be defeated at the polls, it’s got to be decimated…Michael Bennet is the best choice among any Democrat to accomplish that.”
James Carville is RIGHT, team. It’s clear that Michael is the one candidate in this race who comes from the right kind of state, with the right kind of agenda, to beat Trump.Bennet for America
It’s… unbelievable, really, that Carville is able to see the future with that accuracy.
I’m not even sure Bennet believes it.
Tom Steyer released a plan to give working families a tax cut and asked me to sign on to support it, while Bernie Sanders sent two different emails from the Sunrise movement. As a donor, they asked me to endorse Sanders for President, but as a non-donor, they simply asked me to endorse the need for a Green New Deal.
Joe Biden asked me for money. Straight-up money. You see, this next weekend, he’s going to have a ton of volunteers knocking doors because the weekends are the only time volunteers can knock doors.
Maybe it’s because of weather? I’m not sure. But regardless, he wants money so he can gear up his volunteers with what they need to get his message out, including pizza and water, clipboards, pamphlets, etc.
Pete Buttigieg also wants to do some massive door knocking this weekend. However, he’s not just asking for money: he’s asking me to actually knock. The Midwest coordinator for his team emailed to let me know about a carpool from my state down to Iowa. Earlier in the week, the Indiana State Director told me about a carpool from South Bend to Iowa (ironically closer than the one leaving Michigan). While every campaign has access to door knocking on the weekend, Buttigieg’s campaign is the only one actively trying to recruit me to go and be an extra body for him.
Andrew Yang also asked me to either volunteer or donate, though he’s talking about making phone calls to Iowans. If I can’t phone bank, he’d like it if I could donate.
Pete Buttigieg has also invited me to win a chance to be with him in Iowa on caucus day. I’m rather intrigued. I’d love to be Part of the Day just to see what goes down.
Elizabeth Warren is focusing on her fundraising, needing more money to flesh out her advertising budget. This is a familiar strategy: tell people you have the money you need, then tell people you don’t have the money you need for ads (I remember your August, Joe Biden!)
Remember, Warren needed $20 million by the end of December to fund her budget. She pulled in over $21 million. Then she needed a little bit more to fully fund her budget. She didn’t tell me if she made it or not, but I’m assuming she did since she was bragging about her strong start to the month fundraising-wise. Now her budget is short again, and in a critical area!
We started the year being outraised by other campaigns. The good news is that we have really made up some ground this month with your support, but some of our programs still need an extra boost right now.
Our advertising budget is slightly behind where it needs to be, and this weekend we need to spread our message of big, structural change across Iowa ahead of the caucuses.
Our goal is to receive enough contributions from this email to execute the complete advertising plan we have.
This is a close race, and the Iowa caucuses are the first electoral contest of this primary.Team Warren
Every day between now and February 3 is a new opportunity to connect with an undecided voter and inspire them to join our movement for big, structural change.
For every person who sees a video of Elizabeth explaining the Ultra-Millionaire Tax, or hears an ad about why Elizabeth is in this fight, and then feels inspired to caucus for her, it will be thanks to grassroots supporters like you who chipped in today and made it possible.
But if we don’t have a strong advertising budget and have to pull back our efforts, we risk not connecting with that person.
If we can get our message out to as many people as possible before caucusing begins, we can win. But it starts with receiving enough grassroots contributions to execute our plan. Can you please pitch in right now?
However, the real fireworks of Thursday came from Pete Buttigieg taking the gloves off when it came to Bernie Sanders.
The reality of being an underdog campaign this cycle is that we’re up against people who have been building their political organizations for decades.
Some of our competitors, like Bernie Sanders, have even run for president before — and that means that they had a head start on things like building their fundraising lists. For example, when Bernie launched his campaign, he had millions of email addresses already in his database. We had less than 25,000.
Having several million people on your email list allows you to do things like raise $4 million in two days — something Bernie says he did in the 48 hours after the last debate.
If we are going to turn the page on our politics, we have to be able to compete with the people who have been working in Washington for years — and the people who can spend millions of their own dollars on a campaign. That means we need your help right now with a donation to this campaign.
We’re still an underdog in this race. Our community of supporters has grown exponentially since we launched, and now we’re in a dead heat in the early states with two sitting senators and a former vice president.
And it’s been recently reported a dark money group — one that can take unlimited contributions without having to disclose its donors — is putting at least seven figures behind Bernie’s campaign. That’s why we need you now more than ever.
In the last debate, there were five candidates on stage re-litigating issues of the past. And then there was Pete. He was the only candidate offering a bold vision for the future. We know voters don’t want more of the same failed Washington leadership — they want someone who can turn the page.
Pete is the only candidate building the campaign and movement that can usher in a new era of belonging for America, but the first caucuses and primaries are around the corner, and we don’t have years to build our political organization. If you can, please make a donation to this campaign right now.Pete for America
I labeled this as “Negative toward Democrats,” though it is absolutely worth pointing out that as much as I can tell, everything in this email is factual. This is the first time Buttigieg has undeniably given another campaign a smack in email form, and it is also the second time Buttigieg has so much as referenced another candidate by name other than Trump and Tom Steyer (once, mentioning his standing in polls).
As I’ve repeatedly said, it’s easier to make $1 million when you already have $10 million in the bank. It’s also easier to raise $1 million when you have an existing donor list of nearly 2.5 million. Let’s compare: if Bernie emailed 2.5 million people and 40% gave $1 each (minimum contribution through ActBlue), that would be $1 million. Easy.
By contrast, every single one of Buttigieg’s 25,000 contacts would have to give him $40 to hit that first million.
This becomes an issue for lesser-known candidates when the people at the top of the charts are telling them they are corrupt for holding fundraisers. How many people do you think are on Michael Bennet’s mailing list? How many do you think were on Kamala Harris or Cory Booker’s?
The privilege of not needing to hold fundraisers because your mailing list is already at a critical mass is something not taken into account by the campaigns that boast about their numbers. It serves to keep the established politicians in as the only acceptable picks, and it shuts out new voices, young voices, and minority voices.
Buttigieg said that Sanders is claiming to have raised $4 million since the debate. A quick Google search turned up articles expressing this. Interestingly, Sanders has not told me this number via email. Instead, he told me that he told the media 100,000 people donated.
That’s an average donation of $40 per person. But he didn’t give me the other part of the equation to do the math. He just asked me for my $2.70 to join with the other 100,000 people giving so much.
Out of the twelve candidates left, most of them have lengthy stays in D.C. they can throw around, national name recognition on Day One. Who didn’t know Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders when they announced? Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar have been raising their political capital well in advance of their run. Michael Bennet had a speech in the Senate go viral as he railed against Ted Cruz. Tulsi Gabbard was working the Fox News circuit. John Delaney, Tom Steyer, and Mike Bloomberg all can burn millions of their own money without feeling the squeeze.
Deval Patrick, Andrew Yang, and Pete Buttigieg are the only three candidates who did not start their campaigns with national attention or millions of their own to spend. The fact that Yang and Buttigieg are both still in the race speaks to their message and their teams. (The fact that Patrick is still in the race speaks to his late start.) It’s not easy to catch up to people with such a huge head start.
And then Buttigieg slipped that phrase into his email. Dark money group. It makes all good Democrats shiver in their beds. Buttigieg accused Sanders of having the support of one.
According to recent articles, that is also true. Our Revolution is called a “dark money group” because it is not required to disclose its donors for two years: that means 2019 donors won’t be revealed until 2021, well after all the elections, and 2020 donors can hide until 2022. The money sources are hidden, i.e. “dark.”
Now, Our Revolution does disclose donors who have given more than $200 on their website, except they haven’t disclosed any donors since September 30, 2019. They also say that annual donations above $5,000 must be approved by a majority vote of the board, but they don’t say how frequently the board has approved these donations or which of their donors gave them. Previous reports have shown that Our Revolution has taken donations in the six figures from single sources, so clearly, they do have successful majority votes.
And it’s not just Our Revolution supporting Sanders. The Justice Democrats dark money group has been running anti-Biden and anti-Buttigieg ads and plan to spend at least half a million on them. While this one is a flimsier argument, Justice Democrats is backed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is a Sanders campaign surrogate this cycle.
I haven’t been able to find evidence of the seven figures behind Sanders’ campaign that Buttigieg quoted, and people will argue that Sanders isn’t accepting any of that money. That’s absolutely true, because that’s how these dark money groups work. They aren’t allowed to give money to a campaign or collaborate with a campaign. They cannot spend more than 49% of their money on campaign-related expenditures.
But they don’t need to collaborate with Sanders to send emails and put out ads praising him and putting down his opponents. Sanders cannot be blind to how Our Revolution and Justice Democrats are supporting him. He hasn’t told them to stop, like how Cory Booker shut down the super PAC trying to support him.
However, Sanders has heavily implied that candidates allowing dark money groups to help them are corrupt.
I have not been able to find a single dark money group supporting Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg did not end on the dark money note, however. He lifted off it to touch on the debate stage, where “there were five candidates on stage re-litigating issues of the past. And then there was Pete.”
He had a point here as well: the debate was full of quibbles over votes for past wars and who won what election against an incumbent Republican 30 years ago. Here, Buttigieg uses his opponents’ words and actions to highlight his own message: he’s the forward-thinking, future-focused candidate who will get things done as everyone else argues over the past.
This email was, I will say, an absolutely brilliant way to go on the offensive. For a first strike from Buttigieg, it is neutral in tone, couched in just enough negative words and connotations to get the message across without being angry or subjective. It is also incredibly rare to get a smack from Buttigieg, which puts even more power behind the words. Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and Andrew Yang are always ranting about the corporate media treating them unfairly, so I don’t even notice when they wedge it into yet another email.
However, this language is so unusual for Pete Buttigieg that I sat up and took notice.
Speak softly, they say, and carry a big stick.