O'Rourke raises $4.5 million in third quarter

By David Siders

Beto O’Rourke raised only about $4.5 million during the past three months, he said Friday, while his campaign steeled supporters for a potential finish in Iowa and New Hampshire anywhere in the top five.

The former Texas congressman told campaign staff and supporters in a livestreamed briefing that he can still run a winning campaign, suggesting Nevada and Super Tuesday states such as California and Texas play to his strengths.

“We have a path to the nomination and, through that, a path to the presidency, but at this moment we’ve got to break through,” O’Rourke said, arguing his campaign is on a “wonderful trajectory.”

But the prospect of finishing far behind in the nation’s first two nominating states is traditionally bleak for a presidential candidate. And given his weak fundraising, O’Rourke did not appear to be lowering expectations. Campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said O’Rourke is “playing to win” in early primary states but that Iowa will not winnow the field to two or three candidates.

Instead, O’Rourke blamed the media for framing the primary as a two-person race, presumably — though he did not name them — between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

“It’s easy, it’s convenient, in some cases it’s lazy,” O’Rourke said. “We’re going to have to break through that.”

O’Malley Dillon called the narrow framing of the contest “total bullshit,” before saying that few primary voters have made up their minds or know yet who O’Rourke is.

While asserting O’Rourke still has time to change the dynamic of the race, the campaign also emphasized its outreach to non-traditional voters it said may not be accounted for in polls.

O’Rourke’s campaign said its fundraising is on an upward trajectory, posting its best month of the quarter in September. His third-quarter fundraising represents a nearly $1 million increase from O’Rourke’s abysmal second fundraising quarter, in which the former Texas congressman raised just $3.6 million. And it comes despite a pause in fundraising following the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, his home town.

But following a fast start — O’Rourke raised $6.1 million in the 24 hours after he announced his campaign in March — he quickly fell back both in fundraising and public opinion polls, where he now sits at between 2 percent and 3 percent nationally.

O’Malley Dillon set a fundraising goal of $2 million for the next six weeks.

O’Rourke’s fundraising total, announced late Friday afternoon, falls far below the front-tier contenders. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren each announced second-quarter fundraising of about $25 million, and former Vice President Joe Biden raised more than $15 million.

Outside of the top tier, Sen. Kamala Harris raised $11.6 million in the past three months, businessman Andrew Yang raised $10 million and Sen. Cory Booker raised more than $6 million. Sen. Amy Klobuchar raised $4.8 million from July through September.

O’Rourke’s slumping fundraising came despite the campaign’s increased effort on fundraising and a furious late-quarter push, even as he poked fun at some of his competitors for their appeals.

Speaking at the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin during the closing days of the fundraising quarter, O’Rourke joked he could “maybe do a Facebook Live stream with a kitten, and say, ‘You know, now we don’t want anything to happen to the kitten. So, send your $5, your $10, your $15 in now and Miss Whiskers is going to be fine.’”

O’Rourke’s campaign then tweeted, “I’m not gonna do that, but if you want to donate, here’s a link.”

On Friday, O’Rourke again ended his livestream conversation with an appeal to donate.