A day before 12 candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates take the stage for the fourth debate of the primary, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg criticized several of his opponents for their reliance on grassroots, small-dollar fundraising and bold policy proposals—despite the broad popularity and success of both.
On "Good Luck, America," a political news show airing on Snapchat, Buttigieg took aim at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—and indirectly at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—for raising campaign funds mostly through small individual contributions.
"We're not going to beat Trump with pocket change," Buttigieg told host Peter Hamby.
"Pocket change is beating Pete, though," journalist Krystal Ball tweeted.
“Pocket change” is beating Pete though. https://t.co/ZHLRIvyHwP
— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) October 14, 2019
This ain’t it, @PeteButtigieg...
Attacking the most popular Democratic candidate for not accepting PAC money or a candidate who backs what a majority of Americans support is not a good look.
p.s. I don’t think Mayor Pete wants to compare Warren’s pocket change to his donations. https://t.co/iKxoxdi15p
— Travis Akers (@travisakers) October 14, 2019
Warren frequently posts videos of herself personally calling donors who have given her small amounts of money to thank them—a hallmark of the campaign which has won her praise and which Warren says she's able to do because she isn't spending time at high-dollar fundraisers.
The $32 million Buttigieg has raised is almost evenly split between small and large contributions, with 51 percent coming from large-dollar donations.
Odd thing to say when you were outraised by “pocket change” over the last quarter. https://t.co/MdZoINg4wP
— Eric Bradner (@ericbradner) October 14, 2019
That "pocket change" added up to $49.9 million for both Sanders and Warren in Q3.
Sanders and Warren raised $6.2 million and $5.5 million more than Buttigieg in Q3, respectively, with "pocket change," while Pete courted wealthy donors.
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Some on social media said Buttigieg's disparaging comments about Warren's and Sanders's strategy could be seen negatively by his own potential small-dollar donors, forcing him to rely even more on large donations—the latter of which the majority of Americans believe should be limited, according to Pew Research.
This "pocket change" comment is a good example of how centrist dems demobilize the base. It's telling 95% of people (those who can't make big donations) "no, you can't." https://t.co/St3Iltmz8d
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) October 14, 2019
— Saeed Jones (@theferocity) October 14, 2019
Buttigieg also took aim at former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), who he recently disagreed with about the latter's proposed buy-back program from assault weapons.
"I get it, he needs to pick a fight in order to stay relevant but this is about a difference of opinion on policy," Buttigieg told Hamby.
Mayor Pete on Elizabeth Warren’s small donor strategy: “We're not going to beat Trump with pocket change”
Mayor Pete on his gun fight with Beto: “I get it. He needs to pick a fight in order to stay relevant"
— Peter Hamby (@PeterHamby) October 14, 2019
Beto's statement about buy-backs at the third Democratic debate last month—"Hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,"—won loud applause from the audience, but garnered an accusation after the debate from Buttigieg that O'Rourke's proposal was "playing into the hands of Republicans." In response, O'Rourke suggested his opponent was among several who are "triangulating, poll-testing, focus-group driving their response" to questions about how they would govern.
A survey released by The Hill/HarrisX late last month showed broad support for O'Rourke's buy-back proposal. Eighty-seven percent of Democrats supported a voluntary program, while 76 percent of overall respondents backed the proposal. A mandatory program was supported by 59 percent of respondents, including 51 percent of independents and nearly 40 percent of Republicans.
Along with eight other candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Buttigieg, Warren, Sanders, and O'Rourke will take part in the fourth Democratic debate on Tuesday night.