News and Commentary

Was Beto O’Rourke’s First Day Of Fundraising Underwhelming? His Campaign Won’t Share.

The much-anticipated “Beto-mania” may not have materialized for Democratic presidential contender and former Texas Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke.

After hyping the “first 24 hours” of his campaign in a letter to supporters released concurrently with his official announcement, O’Rourke’s team has chosen not to release fundraising numbers from O’Rourke’s first day on the campaign trail, leading to widespread speculation that O’Rourke did not raise anywhere near what he expected.

In his very first “presidential campaign” email, O’Rourke touted the “first 24” hours as key to assessing the viability of his campaign: “What we raise in the first 24 hours will set the tone in the national conversation about the viability of our campaign.”

His campaign isn’t wrong: although many experts questioned the rationale behind Bernie Sanders (I-VT) re-entering the presidential race for a second time, NBC News reports that Sanders easily bypassed his $1 million goal, raising a staggering $5.9 million in the first 24 hours of his 2020 effort, on average donations of $27 (an odd number, but a hallmark of Sanders’ 2016 grassroots campaign).

Sen. Kamala Harris was also open about her fundraising numbers, raking in around $1.5 million in the first 24 hours — a respectable haul for anyone seeking the highest office. Both Harris and Sanders can also boast a wide foundation of donors. Harris had 38,000 contributors in the first 24 hours; Sanders had more than a quarter million individual donors.

But although Beto promised a quick turnaround on his fundraising numbers, he and his team are now dragging their feet on that information, ignoring reporters’ questions and dodging requests. When Washington Post political reporter Matt Viser asked Beto about his first 48 hours late Friday, O’Rourke told him that he “can’t” release the numbers “right now.”

When pressed, Beto admitted that he and his team were simply choosing not to give reporters an idea of his base of support.

The abject denial has led campaign experts to predict Beto’s numbers were much worse than expected, and that the so-called “Beto Bust,” which O’Rourke’s team openly feared before announcing, materialized.

O’Rourke has a much steeper road to acceptance than other Democratic candidates, despite comparisons to both former President Barack Obama and 1960s-era political celebrities John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert. O’Rourke has only competed for a statewide position, and even then, was unsuccessful. “Beto-mania” turned out to be shockingly limited, and O’Rourke ultimately failed to win in his race to unseat incumbent Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Concerns that he had no real national campaign experience, had a difficult time recovering from his statewide run, and couldn’t differentiate himself markedly from other Democratic candidates, dogged the lead-up to O’Rourke’s announcement. Clearly, those concerns had impact on his initial fundraising. And he needs that money: although O’Rourke raised $80 million for his Senate campaign, he had an astonishing 75% burn rate, spending more than $60 million in the closing days of his run.

Since announcing, O’Rourke has also faced issues: he made an odd comment about his wife not raising their kids, according to Bloomberg, couldn’t quite explain a series of bizarre short stories he wrote as a teenager, and was revealed to have been part of a “hacker collective” before entering politics.