Politico Magazine published a feature piece on Sen. Gillibrand’s run for the White House today, but the tone of the piece probably isn’t as upbeat as Gillibrand was hoping it would be. It’s titled “Kirsten Gillibrand’s Failure to Launch” and it opens by focusing on her inability (thus far) to meet both parts of the debate threshold set by the DNC. The threshold for the first round of debates requires that a candidate must poll at 1% in three national polls and have at least 65,000 individual donors. Gillibrand has met the first requirement, though just barely. However, she’s still struggling to find enough donors.
Despite a soaring national profile in the U.S. Senate, Gillibrand has failed to achieve liftoff as a presidential prospect. She has not broken 2 percent in a single national poll since officially declaring her candidacy in mid-March, and her 0.4 percent average in the RealClearPolitics aggregate of surveys places her behind the likes of Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard and even geeky long shot Andrew Yang.
Her bigger problem is fundraising. To secure a spot in the first double-header of Democratic primary debates in late June, candidates must meet two thresholds: surpassing 1 percent in three recognized national polls and collecting 65,000 unique campaign contributions. Gillibrand has checked the first box, however unimpressively. Yet the second mission remains unaccomplished. With the debates closing in—and with even quixotic candidates such as self-help guru Marianne Williamson hitting the 65,000-donor mark—Gillibrand is under the gun. The Democratic National Committee is limiting the total number of participants to 20. She could (and likely will) qualify by meeting the polling threshold only. But given the late gusher of contenders entering the fray, her place on stage can be guaranteed only by growing her donor ranks—and quickly…
“For anyone here, if you like what you’ve heard tonight, I want to earn my place on the debate stage. I can’t do it unless you send a dollar—literally, really,” Gillibrand says, shaking her head as though to acknowledge the oddity of this request. “The measure is for anyone who wants to be on the debate stage, you need to get 65,000 individual supporters. So please go to KirstenGillibrand.com and just send a dollar. It will help me get to the debate stage.”
I guess asking people to donate one dollar is a creative way to meet the requirement, but it doesn’t say much for the enthusiasm she is generating on the campaign trail. Politico adds that some of her rivals already seem to be planning for her departure from the field:
Things have gotten so grim for her that recently, a high-ranking campaign aide to Cory Booker—Gillibrand’s opponent for the Democratic nomination—tweeted that she had donated to the New York senator’s campaign and encouraged others to follow suit. This was done, the aide noted, to ensure that Gillibrand’s “important perspective is on the debate stage.” To other Democrats, this looked less like an act of short-term benevolence than one of long-term strategy: The historically large field will soon begin to be winnowed, and when it does, some of the surprising early exits will make for valuable endorsements. No name has surfaced in those conversations of late more frequently than Gillibrand.
But she’s not out yet. As of now, because there are 20 slots in the early debates and because she has qualified via polling, she’ll likely make it into the first round. However, she’ll be starting at the back of the pack with laughing-stock Bill de Blasio and relative unknowns like Eric Swalwell. If she does survive, Gillibrand will face even higher hurdles to make it into the next round of debates. Earlier this week, Politico presented the requirements for that next round:
Some campaigns have already been struggling to reach the 65,000-donor threshold — or secure one percent in three qualified polls — to gain access to the first debates in June and July. But the DNC’s new criteria for the next round of debates — support from 130,000 unique donors as well as at least 2 percent support in four polls — is set to winnow out senators, governors and a number of other Democratic candidates who are not on a trajectory to hit the polling requirement and could have particular trouble hitting the donor requirement absent a viral moment or another future campaign-shaking event.
As of now, it looks like Sen. Gillibrand is going to have a hard time making that cut.