Cory Booker's campaign: If we don't raise $1.7 million in the next 10 days, he's essentially done

Ed calls this approach the Oral Roberts school of fundraising. If Cory doesn’t get $1.7 million by the end of the month, God’s going to call his campaign home.

If you don’t like that analogy, he offers another: It’s the 2020 equivalent of National Lampoon’s (in)famous “Buy this magazine or we’ll shoot this dog” cover.

Does this mean that Booker’s dropping out if he falls short of his target by October 1? There are three major Democratic gatherings in the first half of the month, Axios notes — an MSNBC town hall on the 2nd devoted to gun safety, a CNN town hall about LGBT issues on the 8th, and then the fourth Democratic debate on the 15th. Certainly Booker could afford to stick around for those and give ’em his best shot in hopes of making a splash. His campaign manager even acknowledged today that they could keep operating on their current scale if they had to, albeit stressing that that’s not good enough to win anymore.

Now that he’s declared his campaign effectively hopeless if he misses his fundraising number, though, how would he justify his decision to continue if he misses it?

While we invested early in building an outstanding organization in our Newark headquarters and the February early states, other campaigns have, in recent weeks, surpassed us in scale and begun spending on paid persuasion efforts online and on television.

Between that and the likely increase in the DNC’s debate-qualifying thresholds, which would require significant funds to meet, it is probable there are only four campaigns in this race with the money necessary to build and sustain the national organization needed to win the nomination

September is traditionally one of the strongest fundraising months for presidential campaigns. But after a surprisingly positive August, we simply have not witnessed the expected uptick in fundraising over the last three weeks.

To put it bluntly, we need to scale our operation up in October and November to remain competitive and need a strong September to make that happen.

“I want to be clear: This isn’t an end-of-quarter stunt or another one of those memos from a campaign trying to spin the press,” campaign manager Addisu Demissie added. I believe him. I don’t think they would have frankly acknowledged that their fundraising thus far this month has been disappointing if this were a stunt. And certainly they wouldn’t have staked the viability of the campaign on hitting a particular number knowing how the media will spin it now if Booker doesn’t reach that number.

The most noteworthy line in the memo has to do with other campaigns. There are just four, Demissie claims, that have the financial wherewithal to compete nationally right now. That would be Biden, Bernie, Warren, and Pete Buttigieg, who led the field in fundraising in the second quarter. In other words, Demissie seems to think Kamala Harris is in a predicament not unlike Booker’s, and even says elliptically at one point, “Cory Booker might not be in this race for much longer — the same is true for other important voices in the field.” Is the Democratic Party of 2019 really on the brink of producing a final four in which all are white and three of the four are men? “We have the most diverse Democratic field in history and I think it would be a shame if that diversity was not reflected in the candidates who end up competing for the nomination once people actually start voting come next spring,” said Demissie to the Daily Beast. Given the state of Harris’s polling lately, it’s anyone’s guess right now whether she’ll be in the race on January 1st.

Booker dropping out would be a big deal because he’s the only candidate outside the top tier who still has breakout potential, I think. Harris got her look from voters in late June and now seems to have been tossed away. Beto’s tried everything he can think of to get noticed and continues to plod along at three or four percent. Castro seemed to have potential but then made everyone mad at him with his dig at Biden’s forgetfulness at the last debate. Klobuchar is a total nonfactor and Yang is a gimmick candidate with his UBI pitch. Booker’s the one person who seems like he might be broadly acceptable to different Democratic constituencies if he caught a few breaks — he’s African-American, he’s progressive-ish, he has charm on the stump. He’s embraced some radical ideas, like O’Rourke’s mandatory buyback proposal, but has a knack for not seeming radical. If Biden suddenly imploded, Booker might find himself a destination for black voters currently supporting Grandpa Joe, which would instantly make him a top-tier candidate. But for whatever reason, he hasn’t caught on. I checked RCP this afternoon and was surprised to find that Booker has never touched five percent in a national primary poll since April. Not once. He has reached four percent a few times but even that’s infrequent.

If he has to quit because he can’t raise enough dough and Harris continues to crawl along at four percent, it’ll mean the two black candidates in the race — both well-known U.S. senators, both formidable when the race began — were sidelined months before voting began in Iowa. That would be genuinely shocking. And it would be a huge boon to Biden, who worried from the start about Booker and Harris potentially wooing away black voters from him. A final four of Joe, Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg, with the last three fighting over progressives and young adults and leaving Biden left to consolidate African-Americans and older voters, is about as favorable a battlefield as Biden could have hoped for when the race began.