Booker Needs $2.5 Million to Cover October Budget

High-spending N.J. Democrat threatened to quit race in September

Cory Booker / Getty Images
October 1, 2019

After Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker met a $1.7 million fundraising goal hours before his campaign's self-imposed deadline, the New Jersey senator must now raise an additional $2.5 million in October.

The Booker campaign on Tuesday announced a fourth quarter budget of $7.2 million, with more than $4 million allocated for staff salaries, as well as a looming six-figure investment on an email list to flag potential supporters. Campaign manager Addisu Demissie said the campaign will need to raise at least $2.5 million in October to cover the rising costs.

"We've seen that if you tell people the truth and you let them know what you need, they will come to your aid because they believe Cory's voice is important in this race and that he should be in this till the end," he said.

Booker threatened to quit the 2020 Democratic presidential primary in late September, citing inadequate fundraising. The campaign insisted on Tuesday that its plea for cash "was not an end-of-quarter stunt" and "was never about survival." Demissie said Booker, who dipped to 0 percent support in a September Quinnipiac poll, will no longer tie his 2020 fortunes to fundraising when asked whether he was "going to talk about ending the campaign at the end of the next month."

"The answer to the question is no. It was never about survival it was about growth. We need to continue to grow in October, and frankly in November, December, January," Demissie said. "We need to raise $2,499,000 in October to sustain this growth and continue the growth, so that's why we're setting the $3 million goal ... We're confident we can do it cause we just did it in September."

The campaign is celebrating its best fundraising quarter to date after amassing more than $6 million from thousands of donors. Demissie declined to make available spending figures for the third quarter, and the campaign did not respond to follow-up requests for comment.

Booker's second quarter disclosures revealed that the campaign spent more money than it raised. The New Jersey senator has dedicated a large portion of spending to staff salaries, which accounted for $1.6 million in the 2nd quarter—hundreds of thousands more than South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is one of the top Democratic fundraisers in the crowded primary field.

Booker plans to double the staffer budget in the coming months. More than half of the campaign's $7.2 million quarterly budget will go toward payroll, and the campaign plans to open new field offices in early primary states, though it declined to give details on specific locations.

Booker's campaign has continued to tout a "viable path" to victory after its successful third quarter fundraising drive despite recently polling at 0 percent. He has the donors to qualify for the November debate, but will need a significant boost in the polls to clear the thresholds set by the Democratic Party. Booker downplayed those concerns in a Monday interview with CNN.

"We're not really concerned," he said. "We should have no problem making that debate stage. But again, the urgency to raise money is really what we keep looking at, and that's something that seems right now to be on the right trajectory and hope it continues."

While Booker's third quarter fundraising haul of roughly $6 million marks the campaign's strongest quarter to date, it pales in comparison to the primary's frontrunners. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) announced $25.3 million in third quarter fundraising, while Buttigieg pulled in $19.1 million. Former vice president Joe Biden and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren have yet to announce their third quarter fundraising numbers, but the two candidates raised $21.9 million and $19.1 million in quarter two, respectively.