Being a Billionaire Doesn’t Suck

The Democratic electorate has no interest in John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennet, Jay Inslee, or Steve Bullock. Four current or very recent governors or senators, popular with their home states. The most current estimates have all four missing the next round of debates. You need four qualifying polls of two percent or higher. These four individuals have combined for one. Only Inslee is anywhere near the additional 130,000 donor requirement. Thank u, next.

Tim Ryan, John Delaney, and Seth Moulton, please exit the campaign bus. Three current or former representatives, with nary a constituency. Then there’s Bill deBlasio. He’s not going anywhere either, but at least he can say his national favorability ratings have surpassed his NYC ones in negativity. Hey, somebody has to be the least popular politician in America. I almost forgot to mention Joe Sestak. Would you have noticed if I had?

Random white male politicians don’t have any use in the 2020 Democratic nomination contest. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and what’s left of Beto O’Rourke have filled this category in full. Two famous old guys, two young pups with suitable narratives. We’re good here.

If one is willing to accept the Democrats just aren’t looking for a pseudo-centrist, 1992 Bill Clinton-style nominee, even one suitable for the Me Too Era, next month’s debate stage in Houston will be plenty diverse. In addition to the four white guys who made the cut, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, and Andrew Yang are in.

Julian Castro is really close. He’s reached the donor requirement and just needs one more qualifying poll. Tulsi Gabbard has the donors, but only one of the four necessary polls. Perhaps she’ll qualify for October’s debate. Candidates get an additional few weeks to post the necessary results.

It appears Kirsten Gillibrand is surplus to requirements. Her odds are better than the Moderate(ish) White Guy Squad, but she still needs some donors, plus 3 more qualifying polls. Think she’s gonna miss. There’s just no compelling reason for her candidacy to exist.

So we’re done. Nine are in. One other is pretty close. Another could make it by October. Think this a field many Democrats are excited about. Time to circle the wagons, let them slug it out. See if the lower-polling survivors can distinguish themselves without the Hickenloopers of the world in their way.

Not so fast.

There’s another survivor. You may not have remembered he was there. He hasn’t appeared in a debate yet. He’s another white male. Not very young. Not a national name. Never held elective office. Or run for elective office. Active in Bay Area circles, but never started a famous tech company. Ran a hedge fund for a bit.

He’s very concerned about the environment. You know, like Jay Inslee. Except, he’s rich. He really wants to impeach President Trump. Those are his two main issues, though he’s also in favor of some Sanders/Warren style economic policies. Pretend they were super rich and promoting their agendas as a billionaire.

Does this sound like somebody the Democratic field desperately needs? Likely not, but guess what, they’re getting him anyway. Introducing Tom Steyer, one of the final ten to thirteen contestants.

Today his campaign announced they’d reached the 130,000 donor target. That’s right, a billionaire got that many people to give him an individual donation. And it only took him a couple months. Sure, many of the donations were $1. And he spent several million dollars raising the donations.

Side Note: If you needed any proof the debate qualification standards were mostly an invitation to game the system, here you go.

Regardless, Steyer leveraged a huge bank account, and an email list of 8 million progressives to quickly check this item off. He’s almost there with the polls too. If he can get one more 2% result in the next two weeks, he’s in the September and October debates.

Again, a combination of money and strategy did for him what the Delaneys of the world couldn’t manage. While the DNC only approves certain polls for qualification, they are a mix of national and early state surveys. Steyer is spending heavily in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, blanketing the airwaves and internet with ads.

It’s working. Most viable candidates are saving the majority of their ad dollars for closer to actual voting. The underdogs aren’t raising enough for a blitz. Delaney did or does have the money, but his message isn’t resonating at all. Steyer is the one candidate with an acceptably liberal agenda, bottomless pockets, and nothing to lose.

While he’s at 0.5% in the Real Clear Politics national average, and has only reached 2% in a single national survey, his results in early state polls are going to get him in. RCP has him 7th in Iowa, 7th in New Hampshire, and 8th in South Carolina.

Money matters. While Steyer is not a likely nominee, he will drive some of the agenda. He will mix it up with some of the leading contenders in debates. He will crowd out some of the survivors who are hoping to make a mark in Iowa. If you want to run a credible Democratic presidential campaign in 2019, it sucks to be a moderate. It sucks to be Jay Inslee. It doesn’t suck to be an ultra-progressive billionaire.

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