At 11:13 PM on Saturday, February 29, 2020, businessman Tom Steyer and the poorer of the 2020 billionaire candidates, officially suspended his campaign for President.
Tom lasted a 235 days in the race, starting late and ending just before Super Tuesday. During those days, he sent a total of 288 emails, or 1.22 emails a day. Only one of those emails came to me as a donor, and then he abruptly dropped me from his list. I never was sure if it was because I was using an email forwarding service or because he felt like he didn’t need my support once he had my $1 donation to help him get on the next debate stage.
Like most businessmen, Tom did the bulk of his work during the work week. Most of his emails came on Monday-Thursday, with Friday being slower and the weekend practically being a break period.
The timing of his emails also corresponded well to work hours, mainly arriving between 11 AM and 4:59 PM, though he also was fond of the 5 PM to 8:59 PM time slot. He rarely sent emails at night or first thing in the morning.
Tom never had a financial goal in his 235 days as a presidential candidate, instead focusing on donor goals so he could make debate stages. He didn’t need my financial support, he told me, just my enthusiastic support. $1 was perfectly fine. I could help in other ways, such as volunteering my time and energy. Across all of his emails, the average donation amount he asked for was a mere $0.75.
Tom’s emails were light on the standard political email rhetoric, which I appreciated. He never called me a top supporter or informed me of how humble he was, and he also never asked if he could explain why he was going to ask me for a donation. He did remember to thank me on occasion, and he never apologized for emailing me too much.
Tom still asked me for money the most, but his 30.9% donation ask rate is barely anything compared to most candidates. Beyond money, he liked to send me petitions to sign. Some were the standard “here’s my policy, sign if you agree with it,” that most candidates do, but he also sent me petition after petition talking about how bad Trump was and how we needed to impeach him and how the American people deserve better than Trump’s handling of crises.
Tom’s emails largely circled around getting on the debate stage, how he did on a debate stage, and getting him on the next debate stage. He did send a few snitty emails about the DNC winnowing the field artificially when he didn’t make it on one debate stage, but largely, he was positive toward the Democrats and negative toward the Republicans. Many of his emails called out Trump for something bad or another, though Tom also had a big focus on climate change and saving our planet.
Tom had some fantastic merchandise and designs, including a heavy marketing of his tartan tie, which caught everyone’s eye at the first debate he attended. It’s not a Christmas tie, as some believed, but actually the tartan of clan Wallace, infamous from the movie Braveheart. Tom wears it as a badge of courage and honor.
…except Tom isn’t actually of clan Wallace. He’s of clan Murray. Yes, he does have Scottish blood, and yes, he knows that a clan’s tartan is a proprietary design that you really shouldn’t wear unless you’re part of that clan. But Tom thinks the Murray tartan is boring and prefers the Wallace tartan.
In case you were wondering, you can purchase your own Tom tartan tie from Lochcarron of Scotland. This is the actual brand Tom wears, which we know because he sent one to Andrew Yang as a Christmas present with a note that he noticed Andrew didn’t have a tie.
Tom also has a belt he bought in Kenya to remind himself of the power of women and female artisans, and he draws a cross on his hand every day to remind himself to always tell the truth and do what’s right.
With his bright ties and easy-going attitude (Tom’s most common line on a debate stage seemed to be “I agree with ____”), Tom garnered a lot of good will from many voters. He also had no fear in showing off his dad moves.
For a billionaire, he came across as a genuinely likeable, affable guy, not a corrupt monster of the establishment that so many campaigns try to paint billionaires as. Of course, he was not without his problems: there was a moment in South Carolina where he ended up with some of Kamala Harris’ proprietary voter information (and it’s unsure if it was accidental or intentional), and he was accused of “buying” endorsements by giving large amounts of money to campaign funds or pet projects of key figures.
Despite all of this, plus the multi-millions of his own cash he poured into out-sized media buys, his “younger than septuagenarian” age, and his Christmas photo of his entire family in tartan, Tom couldn’t find the traction he needed.
235 days and $252 million later, Tom decided he couldn’t see a path to the nomination and decided to suspend his campaign. He isn’t done fighting Donald Trump, though, he assured me, and he certainly isn’t done protecting the world from climate change.
Farewell, Tom. Your tie and smile brought some much-needed levity to this race.