Democratic Donors Holding Out for Terry McAuliffe's 2020 Decision

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D.) / Getty Images
March 4, 2019

Many top Democratic donors are waiting on a 2020 decision from Terry McAuliffe, one of the most prolific fundraisers in the history of the party, before they commit to anybody else in the field, according to a report from CNN.

McAuliffe, who ran fundraising for presidential runs for both Bill and Hillary Clinton before being elected governor of Virginia, is considering a run for president and has said his decision would be announced this month. His personal relationships with top donors in the party have some playing the waiting game, telling CNN they wouldn't be able to support any of the announced candidates over him.

"I don't know who your close friends are, but it would be like one of your close friends ran for president and you were supporting Elizabeth Warren," said John Morgan, a Florida attorney and regular donor to Democratic candidates. "It would be like, 'what the fuck?'"

Chris Korge, another major Florida donor, said he had already given to one candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), but that he told her campaign his support would shift to McAuliffe if he entered the race.

"I did give a contribution to Kamala Harris, but when I gave it to her, I told her, 'If McAuliffe jumps in, I am supporting him,'" Korge said. "I have made it clear to her, as well as every other person who has approached me, including five or six of them running, that if McAuliffe runs, I am supporting him."

McAuliffe has been a top fundraiser for the Democratic Party for decades, and has earned loyalty from many through his work on presidential campaigns for both the Clintons, Jimmy Carter, and Walter Mondale. He is also a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. His experience is what inspires confidence from some longtime donors that he could raise the resources needed to fund what will be a marathon of a political campaign, according to the report.

This lengthy history in Democratic politics has endeared the former governor to a number of top Democratic donors.

"I am comfortable holding off and not making any significant commitment until he decides," said Al Dwoskin, a top Democratic donor who started working with McAuliffe in the 1980s. "I would say it is highly likely he will run."

One reason, said Dwoskin, is the fact that McAuliffe knows he will have the resources to get his message out.

"There is a big difference between having the resources to have a campaign and having an effective campaign. It is hard to have one without the resources," Dwoskin said of McAuliffe. "That's a big part of it."

Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, a longtime Clinton donor, also told CNN she was holding off donating to candidates who have asked for support.

"I support what they are doing, some of them called me before they were running and asked what I thought," said Bagley. "But at this point, I am holding off and waiting Terry."

McAuliffe has said he is holding off to see if anybody in the field takes the "centrist" lane he hopes to occupy. Possible obstacles to a McAuliffe run include former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, who announced his campaign on Monday, and former vice president Joe Biden.

Another obstacle to his candidacy is the scandals surrounding current Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a close ally to McAuliffe whom he campaigned for.