I love to see the changes in long term political business as usual because of the impact of Bernie Sanders and Our Revolution.
This is another step in the right direction because of how we handled 2016.
In a break with past elections, when financiers fell in line behind favored candidates, the potentially crowded field for the Democratic nomination has driven some donors to sit tight rather than commit – even if that means putting old relationships on ice.
“I haven’t even started to think about 2020,” said Daniel Berger, a Philadelphia lawyer who backed President Barack Obama’s campaigns. He was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 bid but isn’t aligning himself with former Vice President Joe Biden – or anyone else – as a possible candidate.
“Call me back in 45 days,” he said.
Early jockeying among Democrats for the opportunity to take on President Donald Trump in 2020 is well underway, including donor meetings across the country, contributors told USA TODAY. But the unwieldy number of would-be candidates is reshuffling the race for cash and forcing some donors to rethink alliances.
Democratic donor Marc Stanley, a Dallas attorney, created a super PAC during the midterm election that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s progressive Senate bid in Texas. But as he looks ahead to the presidential race, he isn’t necessarily committing to an O’Rourke campaign for the White House.
Instead, Stanley said he’s primarily focused on winning.
“This isn’t about the shiniest penny,” he said. “We’ve got to focus in early and pick the candidate who can help evict Donald Trump."
O’Rourke raised more than $80 million in his unsuccessful campaign to unseat Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, sparking talk of a presidential campaign before the polls closed.
Several prominent Democratic donors and bundlers told USA TODAY they are eager to focus the field and avoid the drawn-out conflict both parties endured in 2016. But many also acknowledged no candidate has emerged with a lock on the party's prolific donors.
That's prompting some donors to sit tight. A spokesman for liberal donor George Soros told CNBC that the billionaire may not pick a candidate in the primary. That would represent a departure from 2016, when he gave more than $300,000 to Hillary Clinton.
“I’m going to wait a bit just to see how it begins to shape up,” said Dick Rosenthal, a Cincinnati philanthropist who bundled contributions for Clinton. “My involvement won’t happen to any degree until there is a clear, leading candidate."
Roughly three dozen Democrats are considering a run for president in 2020, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who raised more than $35 million for her re-election this year in Massachusetts. Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, who are also considering a run, raised millions in 2018 despite not facing election.
Adding to the uncertainty for donors is the weight campaigns are increasingly giving to small-dollar donations, which propelled Trump in the general election and extended Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign against Clinton. That dynamic might benefit lesser-known candidates who don't have deep-pocketed donors backing them.