Booker Polls at 0 Percent, Insists on 'Viable Path' to 2020 Nom

N.J. senator retracts self-imposed dropout threat after raising $1.7 million

Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) / Getty Images
September 30, 2019

Despite recently polling at 0 percent, Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker said he sees a "viable path" to victory after narrowly meeting a $1.7 million fundraising goal just hours before the campaign's self-imposed deadline.

Booker met the fundraising goal Sunday night and quickly touted the campaign's newfound "viable path" to victory despite recent polling struggles. Booker has yet to meet the DNC's polling requirement to qualify for the November debate—recent polling shows the New Jersey senator's support as low as 0 percent. He cleared the $1.7 million threshold over the course of 10 days, but is now pushing to raise an additional $300,000 from supporters on Monday, as third quarter fundraising draws to a close. Booker pointed to the latest fundraising figures as evidence of his growing support on CNN's New Day Monday morning.

"We blew past it last night. It's been the best sort of period of fundraising we've had for the campaign," he said. "We owe a lot of gratitude to the tens of thousands of people who came forward to empower us to be in a position to continue in this campaign and grow in this campaign."

Booker's fundraising surge came with a fall in the polls. A September 25 Quinnipiac poll found the New Jersey senator polling at 0 percent support, though the poll's margin of error was +/- 4.9 points. His favorability rating is also low, with only 25 percent of respondents saying they have a "favorable opinion" compared to 36 percent rating him unfavorable in the poll. Booker dismissed the latest polls, which could threaten his position on the November debate stage, arguing that money is more essential to maintaining a presidential campaign.

"These polls are all over the place," Booker told CNN. "We're not really concerned.... 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."

The Booker campaign did not respond to a request for comment about the fundraising and polling.

Booker issued a last-minute push Sept. 21 for campaign cash by threatening to drop out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary if he failed to raise $1.7 million by Sept. 30. Booker boasted to the New Yorker about his ability to garner sympathy donations from supporters of his 2020 rivals.

"When I was walking through the Iowa steak fry, as a vegan—we put out there that we were not going to campaign if we couldn’t raise money," Booker said. "I had people in other T-shirts—other candidates' T-shirts—saying, 'Oh, I'm an X-person supporter, but need you in this race, man! I gave you five bucks.'"

Booker has insisted that he is not at "risk of running out of funds," but has been one of the most prolific spenders among the crowded 2020 field. The campaign spent $5.3 million in the second quarter, which ended in June, about $800,000 more than it raised. The New Jersey senator has dedicated a large portion of spending to his staff salaries, which accounted for $1.6 million in the second quarter—outspending some of the strongest fundraisers in the primary. South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) each spent $1.4 million on payroll in the second quarter. Buttigieg and Harris raised $24.9 million and $11.8 million, respectively, during that time, substantially more than Booker's $4.5 million.

Money woes have already helped to narrow the field of primary candidates. In August, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) dropped out having spent $4.2 million during the second quarter while raising only $2.3 million.