Monday was the deadline for 2020 presidential candidates to file their second-quarter fundraising totals with the Federal Election Commission. For some, this was a day to take a victory lap. Others were left to spin sub-optimal totals.
And then there was Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, for whom no amount of spin could mask the very distinct burning smell that’s developed around his campaign.
It was just a few months ago that O’Rourke was raking in the cash. As CNN noted, in the first 18 days of his candidacy, donors stuffed $9.6 million down the gaping maw of his campaign. All of this because the guy lost to Ted Cruz in a Senate race — but not by as many points as one might have expected in Texas — and because he’s figured out how to be a 46-year-old and not look silly livestreaming himself on a skateboard. (Livestreaming at the dentist still looks a little bit desperate on him, however.)
Things have changed significantly in the interim.
This is mostly because of the entropy that unfailingly sets in around a candidate who has nothing substantive to offer.
There’s also the fact his personality was a media-created construct that the media is no longer willing to maintain due to the fact that he’s now running against other Democrats.
And then there was his debate performance, complete with sixth-grade Spanish, which would have been the disaster story of the two-night affair were it not for Joe Biden’s face-plant and Marianne Williamson’s … well, whatever that was.
So, fast-forward to Monday and we got a good idea just how badly the rot has infected O’Rourke’s campaign: He was only able to net $3.6 million in the whole second quarter, way less than half of what he did in his first 18 days.
In short, the best thing that happened to O’Rourke on Monday was announcing he has ancestors who were slave-owners. When that’s the acme of your day, it’s been a really bad quarter.
The leader in terms of second-quarter hauls among Democrats was South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who managed to rake in $24.6 million. To put that in perspective, that’s almost seven times what O’Rourke reported. Second-place was former Vice President Joe Biden, who reported $21.5 million in fundraising. (Or, in simpler terms, 5.97 Betos.)
Three other candidates had over $10 million in fundraising: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ($19.1 million/5.30 Betos), Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ($18 million/5 Betos) and California Sen. Kamala Harris (Less than $12 million/less than 3.33 Betos).
Even among the also-rans, he still wasn’t atop the heap. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker took in $4.5 million and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar took in $3.87 million, possibly by threatening her staff to pony up.
What might be more instructive is to look at the candidates who finished directly behind O’Rourke. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee only raised $600,000 less than the former Texas congressman; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and businessman/human meme Andrew Yang both raised only $800,000 less.
Even Williamson took in $1.5 million, proof that the economy is currently so strong there are actually people willing to collectively spend $1.5 million of their money on a candidate who’s more of a crackpot than Anne Heche back when she was speaking her weird alien language.
And by the way, O’Rourke’s entire political career — at least in aspiring to levels above the House of Representatives — is based on his ability to fundraise.
There’s absolutely no way O’Rourke would have gotten close to Cruz if he hadn’t broken fundraising records for a Senate race and burned through all that money like an NBA team with expiring contracts during the free agency period.
He was taken seriously as a presidential contender not because of his experience or charisma but the fact that he finished third in fundraising totals during the first quarter and had that huge surge of dollars in the opening days of his campaign.
But what has he done since then?
I follow this stuff for a living and can kind of think of two things:
There was loosely adumbrated environmental policy a few months back, a sort of answer to the Green New Deal but watered-down and in a form where it might stand a chance of passing. And then there’s been his constant addressing of privilege in America — or rather, his own privilege.
A joke about his wife? Male privilege. The fact that he had ancestors who owned slaves? White privilege. That absurd Vanity Fair cover that served as a campaign announcement? Annie Leibovitz privilege. (That’s a thing, right?)
I will totally admit Beto O’Rourke is privileged. He’s a rich kid who’s never accomplished anything serious in politics other than convincing liberal donors he had a chance at beating a senator they all loathe. He didn’t, but based on the fact that he got close, he convinced them he had a chance at beating a president they all loathe.
They bought it at first. They don’t now. His dollar totals are plummeting along with his poll numbers, which currently stand at 2.6 percent nationally according to the RealClearPolitics average.
That’s a very distant sixth and falling — a difficult position in a race where livestreaming yourself on a skateboard will only get you so far.
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