2016 Democrats

Bernie’s Army

October 1, 2015

Apparently Bernie Sanders raised $26 million in the quarter ending yesterday.  Hillary Clinton’s number is $28 million.  Pretty darn close, probably much closer than Clintonland would prefer.

Still, Hillary had a good quarter and this number is just for the official campaign.  Hillary’s PAC pulled in a soon-to-be disclosed haul that adds to her current funding advantage.

But that advantage may not last.  To begin with, she’s spending money faster.  Despite raising $47 million to his $15 million the previous quarter, Hillary only has $7 million more in cash on hand ($32MM to $25MM).

It’s a problem on a whole bunch of levels.  Let’s see how many we can come up with.  First, he’s pretty much reached parity on incoming funds and available funds, but is spending money at 1/3 of her rate.

Hillary spent 85% as much as she brought in last quarter.  This is still early in the process, way before candidates start dumping huge amounts of money in the early states.  It’s also before they need to spend loads of TV money on the March 1 and March 15 states.

Sanders, as we all know, made noticeable progress in polls over the past quarter.  He advanced to a big lead in New Hampshire, is making it very interesting in Iowa, and is closer nationally.  Depending on the poll, either frighteningly close or just somewhere in the rear-view mirror.

If Bernie continues raising money at this rate, he will be able to afford well more media and infrastructure than outside observers expected.  If he triples his spending this quarter, he’ll still end it with the same amount in the bank he has today.

Hillary not only cannot triple her spending, but unless incoming revenues increase noticeably, she actually needs to cut back to make sure she has enough left for March.  This seems like a big advantage for Bernie.

It gets much, much worse.  Hillary attended 57 fundraisers in the quarter.  Bernie went to 8.  She worked significantly harder to get to the same number.  I’ve never done a fundraiser, but have to imagine doing 2 of them every 3 days is exhausting.  I’m also not in my late sixties.

If you’re wondering why Bernie seems way more energetic, this has something to do with it.  Plus, he might be bionic.

In 2003, Howard Dean raised way more money over the Internet than anyone expected.  In 2007-08, Barack Obama made those numbers look puny, bringing in way more money from way more contributors and having way more volunteers.

Bernie is AHEAD of Barack’s pace.  He’s also closer to Clinton in the polls.  How? Wasn’t Obama the superior candidate? Very possibly, my recent study judged him the best candidate of the post-World War II era.  Sanders is really good, better than most realize, but….

Andrew Luck is an excellent quarterback.  He probably isn’t quite as good as legendary Colts Hall-of-Famer Johnny Unitas, at least not yet.  Luck does have better numbers though.  The game has changed, quarterbacks pass more and complete a higher percentage of passes.

Similarly, insurgent candidates have social media and app tools that were still embryonic in Obama’s day.  It’s hard to think of the current president, a man twenty years Bernie’s junior as obsolete, but we have to consider the Sanders campaign may surpass his efforts organizationally too.

What about Hillary’s MegaPAC?  It’s raised a bunch of money.  $40+ million in Q2, likely a good amount in Q3, though if it was a great quarter they would have leaked the results.  Either way, they have plenty of money on hand and can blanket the airwaves later.

As Scott Walker and Rick Perry can tell you, PAC money isn’t quite the same as raising your own.  She’s not facing an empty treasury like they were, but even if you skirt some of the non-fraternization rules between campaign and PAC, it’s still a bit unwieldy.

You should probably discount the value of outside money by 20-30%.  That still would seem to favor Hillary.  Not so fast.  Front runners generally need a pretty big cash advantage to make up for insurgent momentum.

Hillary has already appeared with Ellen, with Jimmy Fallon, is getting ready to host SNL.  There are more cards for her to play, she can hit some of these shows again in a few months, but the deck isn’t full anymore.

Aside from semi-regular Sunday talk show appearances, Bernie hasn’t done much yet.  He may not ever, but the option is there.  His campaign has not solicited free media to the extent it could.

Hillary has constructed her southern firewall on the idea she’s got a better foundation there (true) and he wouldn’t have the money to do that much about it (false).  It’s not just about TV money.  Like I mentioned the other day, many of us don’t watch many ads anymore.  It’s also boots on the ground.

I think Bernie will actually raise more money than Hillary, even including her PAC. This is a trifecta for him.  More money, lower overhead (with extra volunteers), while bragging about not using a PAC, something he constantly campaigns against.

How can he out-raise her?  Momentum and math.  Hillary began the previous quarter in much better position that she finished it.  If her numbers are well down from Q2 to Q3 and his are way up, even with the PAC, those lines intersect in the next 30-45 days.

Sanders has 650,000 individual contributors.  Though Team Hillary claims most of her direct revenue is from contributions under $100, if she had anywhere near that amount, we’d have heard about it.

October 13 is the first debate.  Joe Biden has now decided to wait on announcing anything and will not appear.  While I’m sure Martin O’Malley is looking forward to his moment in the lights, Bernie will have more attention than ever before.

October 22 Hillary appears before the House Committee on Benghazi.  While it appears the GOP may find a way to save defeat from the jaws of victory (having the leading candidate for Speaker appear to admit the leading reason for the investigation is to knock Clinton down a peg or 10 wasn’t smart), this still isn’t a net plus.

Bernie is going to have a good fourth quarter.  The largest danger for Hillary is in early 2016.  If Sanders wins Iowa, he will instantly raise a ton of money.  By February, he may have 1.5 to 2 million contributors.

An Iowa victory followed by a repeat performance in New Hampshire will make it downpour.  With an average of $63 in total contributions per contributor, Bernie is well below the $2700 individual limit.  His people can give $32 (their average donation amount) indefinitely.

Anyone care to speculate how much havoc he could cause with that much money and an unlimited supply of motivated volunteers?

Hillary could survive losing the first two contests.  Bill Clinton didn’t win them either.  However, in 1992, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin ran as a favorite son, nobody contested the caucus.  Bill treated his second place NH finish as a comeback and the rest is history.

But he didn’t lose to the same candidate in both states (Paul Tsongas in NH).  The last time anyone survived that was 1972, when George McGovern finished second to Ed Muskie in both places.  Thing is, McGovern was Sanders, Muskie was Clinton.

The good news for Hillary is Biden is still waiting at least a few more weeks.  This significantly drops his odds of winning the nomination, which is only good for Clinton, especially as polls show he pulls more votes from her than Bernie.

A two-way race is more likely than yesterday.  Biden entering too late to win without Hillary imploding is more likely than yesterday.

Unfortunately for her, the odds of Bernie winning head-to-head just went up.  Not ready to call it 50/50 yet, but very well might consider him the front runner after the debate or after Benghazi Day at the Capitol.

Interesting times.

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