Presidential Candidates Begin Unveiling Third Quarter Fundraising Totals After the deadline for third quarter fundraising numbers passed last night, the numbers are rolling in. Senator Bernie Sanders logged $25.3 million while Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced a haul of $19.1 million. This episode: White House correspondent Tamara Keith, political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben, and senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Email the show at Find and support your local public radio station at
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Presidential Candidates Begin Unveiling Third Quarter Fundraising Totals

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Presidential Candidates Begin Unveiling Third Quarter Fundraising Totals

Presidential Candidates Begin Unveiling Third Quarter Fundraising Totals

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DARLENE: Hey there. This is Darlene (ph) in Columbus, Ohio. And I was extra excited this morning when I heard the news of a daily pod from our friendly national NPR POLITICS team. This podcast was recorded at...


2:34 P.M. on Tuesday, October 1.

DARLENE: Things may have changed by the time you hear this, but one thing is for certain. For the next several months, the politics team will be in our ears tomorrow to tell us about it. OK, friends. Here's the show.


DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: How much did we pay her?

KEITH: Oh, we put out a request, and we got...


KEITH: ...Like, 45 timestamps. But, please, do keep sending them in because we have a lot of podcasts coming.

KURTZLEBEN: Even if we're not paying you, please send them in.

KEITH: Hey there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.

KURTZLEBEN: I'm Danielle Kurtzleben. I cover politics.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent.

KEITH: So on this podcast, we have been talking a lot in the last week or so about the impeachment inquiry. But guess what? There is still a presidential campaign happening.


KEITH: Fundraising for the quarter ended last night. And today we've been getting some numbers. Danielle, can you run through those numbers?

KURTZLEBEN: Right. The big headline numbers that our listeners may have seen out there are that Senator Bernie Sanders raised $25.3 million in the third quarter this year, so July through September. That is a lot of money. It rivals what he got in the third quarter of 2015 just as he was picking up speed. Aside from that, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg got 19.1 million. That is a very good total. And Senator Cory Booker got 6 million. We should say we don't know what all of the big candidates got. They reported their end-of-quarter totals. But the FEC, the Federal Election Commission, will not come out with the exact data until October 15.

KEITH: OK. So we are going to dig in a little bit more on what Sanders and Buttigieg and Booker - what those numbers mean. But first, Domenico, why do we watch these fundraising reports?

MONTANARO: You know, in order to do things in a campaign, you need money. I mean, in order to hire staff, to run TV ads to define yourself, you need money. And, in fact, Bernie Sanders, lo and behold, right on the same day he releases this $25 million haul, he's out with the very first campaign ad of the 2020 cycle...

KEITH: For him.

MONTANARO: ...For him.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Whether it was Wall Street, the drug companies or other powerful special interests, Bernie has taken them on for us. Now...

KEITH: So this is a campaign ad. This ad is going to cover the airwaves in Iowa. And the reason he can do that is because he just raised a lot of money.


MONTANARO: Yeah. His campaign says that he's going to be spending $1.3 million in Iowa to cover all the markets. And that's a lot of money for Iowa.

KEITH: So there's another reason that we watch these reports. And in some ways, fundraising becomes a stand-in for strength. It's...


KEITH: You know, like, there are polls. And then there are fundraising numbers.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. And let's add that, also, fundraising begets more fundraising. Like, for example, speaking of showing strength, you can go to your donors with that fundraising total and say, look. I am viable for at least X amount of time longer. I have 25 million, 19 million, whatever. If you give money to me now, it's not going to be wasted because I'm going to be sticking around longer.

MONTANARO: I think it's also a very good PR move by the Sanders campaign, in particular, to be able to release this number today because we don't know what former Vice President Biden has raised. We don't know what Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator, has raised - the two people who have been leading in the polls just above Sanders. And there's been this narrative that's been taking place nationally to say that, well, Bernie Sanders is losing some momentum. Elizabeth Warren looks like she's passing him by. She might even catch her eclipse; Joe Biden at some point soon. Bernie Sanders is saying, hold on a second. I'm here to stay. His people are behind him. He's got lots of grassroots support and continues to show that strength.

KEITH: OK. Let's move on to Pete Buttigieg. He raised this 19.1 million. Listeners to the podcast might remember last quarter, we were also talking about a blockbuster number from Pete Buttigieg. In fact, he raised more than any other candidate last quarter.

KURTZLEBEN: Right. So this is showing that he - once again, like we said, he will be sticking around at least for a while. And, you know, to be honest, if you're looking at these numbers, you might be a little surprised just because this doesn't quite match up with the polls. But it shows that he does have enough people who are invested in him - quite literally here...

MONTANARO: (Laughter).

KURTZLEBEN: ...To want him to keep going. I mean, when I've talked to a lot of voters, I've heard a fair number of voters - this is anecdata (ph). But...


KURTZLEBEN: Like, people...


KURTZLEBEN: I mean, so take this with a bazillion grains of salt. But the same voters who tell me, I like Joe Biden, are often the voters who tell me, I like Pete Buttigieg. So...

MONTANARO: That's interesting.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah. I mean, granted, you have a lot of voters who say, I'll vote for any of them. But I am wondering if, you know, you have voters who see Pete Buttigieg as a person to back if, perhaps, Joe Biden slips.

KEITH: Let's talk about Cory Booker. He's the senator from New Jersey. He raised $6 million. That is not the same number as the other two we've just been talking about, but his fundraising was a major focus of the last couple of weeks because his campaign had gone out and said, if we can't raise a lot of money in this closing couple of weeks, we may not be a going operation.

MONTANARO: He basically created what - the psychology of what you do in these creepy email campaigns that he wound up being able to do that on television and saying it out loud. You know those emails with the subject lines that are so annoying that are like, hey, dinner? You know...

KURTZLEBEN: (Laughter).

MONTANARO: And you're like, what?

KEITH: Or the ones that are like, we're done...

MONTANARO: Yeah, we're doomed.

KEITH: ...Like, the ones that get ever more desperate.

MONTANARO: Trump is coming after me. We may not make it, right? You raise that sense of urgency like Booker was doing to say, man, if I don't raise that 1.7 million, I'm out. And look at that urgency it created. He set a bar that he probably knew he could hit and then got the money.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah. He not only got the money. He got nearly 2.2 million in those last 10 days - well over that 1.7.

KEITH: As part of that pledge drive, if you will, at the end of his campaign. But the total was 6 million.

MONTANARO: Well, it means he's off dropout watch.

KEITH: Right.

MONTANARO: You know? I mean, he's made the debate stage. He'll be there. There are other candidates who may not raise the kind of money they need and won't be on the debate stage who we should watch for whether they're going to continue on.

KEITH: One other candidate who we haven't mentioned - President Trump. And we don't have his numbers yet, so we don't know what he's raised. But I can say that in the last couple of days, people on his campaign have been saying, well, impeachment's been really good for fundraising. So...

MONTANARO: They have been raising a lot of money off of impeachment. They've been running digital ads - in fact, a superPAC that is aligned with the president running digital ads, going after some Democrats. This is a thing that they have expected. A lot of people on his campaign - and they have said repeatedly, good. Let Democrats go after him for it. Now, that may be a spin in a way. But, you know, the people who give you money are the people who have given you money. And this is a nice, easy way to go back to the base.

KEITH: We will get more specifics from them when they put out their full numbers. And, obviously, we'll get even more specifics on both Trump and the rest of the Democratic field in the middle of the month, when the numbers come out from the Federal Elections Commission. We are going to take a quick break. And when we get back, let's talk about the debate. It's in two weeks, but we now know who will be on stage.

And we're back. And tonight there is a deadline. It is the deadline for candidates - Democrats - to qualify for the debate stage for the next Democratic debate on October 15. What we know now is that there will be 12 people on that stage. And, Danielle...

KURTZLEBEN: Can they do, like, musical podiums throughout it?

KEITH: (Laughter).

KURTZLEBEN: Can they just shrink as the night goes on? (Laughter).

KEITH: Freeze dancing.




KEITH: So in the grand tradition of the NPR POLITICS PODCAST, Danielle, you have a job to do. Who is going to be on that debate stage?



KURTZLEBEN: Here we go - all in one breath. Vice President Joe Biden - former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard, California Senator Kamala Harris, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Representative Beto O'Rourke, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, businessman Tom Steyer, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and businessman Andrew Yang. I was close.

KEITH: You did not make it in a single breath.

KURTZLEBEN: Sorry, not sorry.

KEITH: (Laughter) OK.

MONTANARO: Thank goodness, actually.



KEITH: So the two new names on that list are Tulsi Gabbard, who is a congresswoman from Hawaii and...

MONTANARO: New old - new old name.

KEITH: New old, right....


KEITH: ...'Cause she had...

MONTANARO: She missed one debate, yeah.

KEITH: Yeah. She had been on the debate stage. She'll be back. And then Tom Steyer, who we haven't talked about very much on this podcast...

MONTANARO: Plaid tie billionaire.

KEITH: Oh, really?

MONTANARO: You never noticed it. Oh, yeah. It's like the cross-hatch plaid tie every time.


MONTANARO: I just don't get it, but he does it every time.

KURTZLEBEN: Now I'm just going to be watching for it.

MONTANARO: (Laughter).

KURTZLEBEN: That's all I'm going to be - that's all that matters too. Well, aside from the ties...

KEITH: OK, so other than his fashion choices...


KEITH: He is a businessman who really made a name for himself by running a lot of television ads featuring himself, calling for the impeachment of President Trump.

KURTZLEBEN: Right, lots and lots of ads. He - like we have said, he's a businessman. He is very heavily self-funded, so he's thrown a lot of his own money at these ads. We should say, aside from that, because, you know, impeachment is now a...

KEITH: A thing.

KURTZLEBEN: ...Thing that is happening or, at least, the impeachment inquiry is happening, Tom Steyer - let's talk a little bit about his other policy positions. He is - like, a lot of the candidates in this race are progressive. He has some similar positions to them. For example, he backs a wealth tax kind of like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. He is also for a public option not for single-payer health care, so that puts him a little bit further away from the progressive end of things. But it's hard to really put him exactly at one end or the other. Let's put him kind of in the middle, where a lot of them are.

MONTANARO: Well, look. If Bernie Sanders was a foil in the last debate for Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, expect Tom Steyer to take a lot of shots and attacks in the next debate because he's a billionaire. Do you know anybody on the stage who takes on the billionaires? I mean, you know...

KURTZLEBEN: Except he's a billionaire willing to put in place a wealth tax.

MONTANARO: Sure. And maybe he'll say that. But the fact is you've had other candidates say that we've got a billionaire in the race who's trying to buy his way onto the debate stage, spending $10-, $12 million or so on various ads to get his name ID up so he can hit that donor threshold and hit that, you know, that polling threshold to be able to get into the debate. And he was able to do that, so he may be somebody who is going to have to answer for some of - buying a ticket onto the stage, as some of the other candidates might accuse him of.

KEITH: Yeah. I mean, he ran a bunch of ads in early voting states to try to get in their polls to move up enough to get on the debate stage.


KEITH: It was an interesting strategy.

MONTANARO: And it is successful. And I have to note, you know, for as much as Democrats have talked against money in this campaign, money is really important in politics to be able to move numbers. And what moves numbers is TV ads. You get your name out there and get yourself into the bloodstream. They've got to be able to do some of that.

KURTZLEBEN: Well, I mean, this gets at one of my favorite and most ridiculous statistics of this whole campaign, which is 35-1, which is the ratio of, at one point - this is from the Center for Responsive Politics. The amount of dollars spent by campaigns - by some campaigns to get even $1 back in donations - you see campaigns are - were spending that much to try to get $1 because they wanted any given - they wanted as many single donors as they could get so they could get on the debate stage. That's how important these debates are.

KEITH: Well, and that also gets at how the DNC, the Democratic Party, rules about how you get on the debate stage have, in some ways, skewed the natural state of things.


MONTANARO: I think we're going to see a lot of a replay of the last debate, where you have the progressives with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on one side, Amy Klobuchar trying to push the moderate lane. And it's just going to be a little more crowded on that debate stage. Frankly, I mean, I may be in the minority in this room on this, but I think having the 12 on the stage in one night - I'd rather watch that than two debates over two nights without having the top-tier candidates being able to square off with each other.

KEITH: Sure.


KEITH: We will have much more on this debate as it gets closer. October 15, it will be on CNN and The New York Times. They're the sponsors of the debate.

MONTANARO: And you can listen on your local NPR station because we'll be broadcasting it as well.

KEITH: And one other thing before we go - there have been some developments on the impeachment inquiry front. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has sent a letter to the House committees that are investigating, saying, among other things, that he considers their request to be an attempt to, quote, "intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State." The committees have responded, arguing that he's the one who's intimidating witnesses. There will be much more on this to come, and we will be following it because - guess what? - this podcast is daily now. We will be back in your feeds tomorrow with all the political news you need to know about. Until then, I'm Tamara Keith. I cover the White House.

KURTZLEBEN: I'm Danielle Kurtzleben. I cover politics.

MONTANARO: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent.

KEITH: And thank you for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.


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