From the beginning of this campaign, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have run very similar campaigns. Their compelling reason to run: It’s my turn! Their strategy: I got all the money, bitches! Their problem: no one could find anyone who really wanted to vote for them.
Now Hillary has developed another similarity to Jeb, one that will be come very pronounced if the Democrat primary drags out: money.
We’ve chronicled how Jeb Bush’s campaign is on the verge of running out of money. The problem has its roots in a strategy that was predicated on clearing the field via intimidation and carpet bombing anyone reckless enough to compete by using a super PAC. Bush shot out of the gate raising over $100 million for Right to Rise. His Achilles heel, though, was building a campaign on funding from those mega-donors who could pony up $2700 each. Bush did lock those down which increased his air of inevitability. In any ordinary year, the strategy was sound. Just not in 2016 with a field of hungry candidates and an electorate thoroughly pissed off at the status quo. Bush raised $13 million in the third quarter but those donors were tapped out for the rest of the primary season. We noted in October that Bush was in grave trouble because he had an extremely small number of small donors who could provide a steady income stream. This was inadvertently the byproduct of Bush’s strategy. His campaign didn’t think it needed small donors and small donors believed that since Bush had more money than the Great Jehovah, there was no reason for them to contribute (bear with me here and assume, arguendo, that there were small donors who would have sent Bush money).
This describes Hillary’s campaign to a tee. Via the LA Times:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign had planned for any number of troubles on her path toward the Democratic nomination; money was never supposed to be among them.
Now, at a critical point in the race, Clinton finds herself under financial stress. The Bernie Sanders money machine keeps churning, sweeping up millions of dollars more than the Clinton campaign has been able to find of late, positioning the democratic socialist from Vermont to compete in states where he was never expected to be a threat.
As Clinton’s network of fundraisers in cash-rich regions like Los Angeles and the Bay Area struggle to fill events where tickets typically cost $2,700 — the maximum a donor can give in the primary — Sanders is not holding any. His money comes almost entirely online, and keeps coming and coming, far faster and more steadily than small donations do on Clinton’s website.
Clinton’s rainmakers have grown anxious. She began the year with $10 million more in the bank than Sanders, but that cushion is disappearing fast.
And it gets better:
The super PACs that support Clinton have additional tens of millions of dollars sitting in their accounts. But that money can provide only little help right now. The largest such PAC, Priorities USA, has put up $5 million for efforts to increase minority turnout in the next several primary states, a move that would presumably help Clinton, who has drawn more support than Sanders from blacks and Latinos.
But several factors limit the role the PACs can play: Clinton has no control over the super PAC money, and she has said publicly that she would prefer that the people who do control it use it to fight Republicans this fall. And any super PAC attacks on Sanders would create a host of headaches for her campaign.
Raising money from Wall Street, which has backed Clinton in the past, also would prove problematic right now. Clinton is locked in “Goldman handcuffs,” a term increasingly used in the campaign to describe the constraint generated by Sanders’ criticism of the huge speaking fees she has collected from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms.
But wait, there is more:
For a candidate who rails against the corrupting influence of money in politics and shows disdain for deep-pocketed donors, Sanders has a remarkable amount of cash in the bank — $28.3 million at the start of February, compared with $38 million for Clinton, according to the two campaigns’ most recent financial disclosure statements.
The average size of a Sanders contribution in January was $27, a figure the candidate repeats so often that it became a joke on “Saturday Night Live” this month. Only about 600 people have given Sanders the $2,700 legal maximum.
Clinton has received 23,000 donations at the maximum. But such checks are becoming harder to find. Clinton’s team is now intensely focused on expanding their network of small givers. She has about 700,000 such donors. Sanders has double that.
“The problem for Clinton is nobody thinks she needs their money,” said Nicco Melee, a technologist who in 2004 helped Vermont Gov. Howard Dean use the Internet to shatter fundraising expectations by mobilizing the same type of progressives now giving to Sanders. By contrast, “everyone in the world thinks Bernie can’t survive without their money,” said Melee, a former executive at The Times.
I’m not pulling the ruby slippers off her feet just yet, but if Bernie Sanders forces Clinton to fight for the nomination up until the end, the problems that she is facing now multiply. As her inevitability slips away, there becomes less and less of a reason to nominate here. And if she does win, this problem will not be cured during the general election. There is little to no evidence that Bernie Sanders donors are going to become Hillary Clinton donors. If we nominate anyone except Donald Trump, her cozy relationship with Wall Street will be a campaign issue. Plus the GOP electorate is energized and ready for a fight.