2020’s underdogs battle for donors to get on debate stage

2020's underdogs battle for donors to get on debate stage
2020's underdogs battle for donors to get on debate stage

The fiercest battle for campaign cash is playing out between the presidential candidates who might not be on your radar.

Ahead of Sunday’s fundraising deadline for the first quarter, the underdogs of the Democratic primary were in a mad dash to coax as little as $2 from grassroots donors. It’s all part of their bid to clear a new threshold from the Democratic National Committee to earn one of 20 highly coveted spots in presidential debates that begin in June.

“I’ll be blunt,” former Obama Cabinet member Julian Castro told prospective donors in one social media ad that was running as late as Thursday. “The Democratic Party’s new debate rules mean I might not make it onto the debate stage.”

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sent multiple fundraising emails pleading her case, telling recipients in one that they could chip in $5 “to become a founding member” and “help get Kirsten on the debate stage.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee urges donors in a Facebook ad to “chip in … at any amount to make sure” his call to combat climate change “is on the stage in June.”

John Delaney, a little-known former Maryland congressman, is going a step further. He promised to donate $2 to charity for every new donor who donated on his website as Sunday’s fundraising deadline approached.

At issue are the rules that DNC Chairman Tom Perez announced in February for the first two debates in June and July: The debates will take place over two back-to-back midweek evenings with 10 slots each night. Candidates have two paths to the stage: They can either achieve 1 percent support in three reputable national or early nominating state polls or they can collect contributions from at least 65,000 donors, with a minimum of 200 in at least 20 states. The amount raised doesn’t matter. It’s all about how many voters are contributing.

It’s not immediately clear how many candidates are short of the fundraising threshold and how many…

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