Have High-Dollar Democrat Donors Given Up?

Oct. 25, 2019
Bob Adelmann

CNBC's private conversations with high-dollar Democrat donors reveal many who are having second thoughts about supporting any of the Democrat Party's candidates. Biden is too male, too pale, and too stale. Warren and Sanders are too far left. Sanders is too noisy. And the others are in single digits.

Recent polls showed Elizabeth Warren overtaking Joe Biden, leading many to conclude that Biden's third try for the brass ring would end in failure too. But of the eight polls taken in the last nine days, Biden regained his footing in seven of them and now, according to Real Clear Politics, leads Elizabeth Warren by more than five points.

What has changed? Biden is still male, pale, and stale. He's still prone to gaffes, but skilled at disingenuousness when it comes to the Ukraine scandal that won't go away. He still isn't generating much enthusiasm from small donors, and he still has far fewer dollars in his war chest than his nearest competitors.

It appears that some big donors have decided that of all the candidates vying for the Democrat Party's nomination, Biden is the cleanest dirty shirt on the line. Sanders and Warren are too far left, and Biden is more likeable than his nearest competitor. In a recent poll on likeability conducted by Gallup, Biden's favorability rating at 69 was a full ten points ahead of Warren's 59.

Accordingly, Biden has been focusing his attention on them. In just the last week, he has held four high-dollar fundraisers, in New York City, in Pennsylvania, and in Greenwich, Connecticut where he was hosted by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and flanked by former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd.

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It may not be enough, however, as many of those "high-dollar" donors are having second thoughts about supporting any of the Democrat contenders. CNBC recently spoke off the record with several of those donors and fundraisers, and learned that many are considering sitting out the 2020 campaign altogether, giving Trump a second term. Said one senior private equity executive (who spoke to CNBC only on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by Democrat Party leaders), "You're in a box because you're a Democrat and you're thinking, 'I want to help the party, but [Warren's] going to hurt me, so I'm going to help President Trump.'"

John Coale, a major donor to both Bill and Hillary Clinton, has given up altogether: "They [the Democrats] don't have anybody who can win the general election."

James Carville, Bill Clinton's campaign advisor, got it mostly right when he coined Clinton's slogan, "It's the economy, stupid!" In addition to a strong economy, the rest of the electable equation in 2020 will be likeability. Even though Biden is much more likeable than Elizabeth Warren, he still (according to Gallup) lags Trump in that department by three points.

Given the health of the economy and the lack of any Democrat candidate with the capability of successfully challenging Trump in the general election next year, the polls appear to be defaulting back to Biden while "high-dollar" Democrat donors are considering sitting this one out altogether.



CNN Poll: Biden's lead in Democratic primary hits widest margin since April

The New American: Fearing Their Candidates Can't Beat Trump, Democrats Seek Alternatives

The New American: Will Clinton Join The Race? Dems Worried That Sleepy Joe Can't Cut It

Fox News: Ex-Dem senator on problems with Biden as nominee: Hunter Biden issues will be like 'Hillary's emails'

Politico: Obama and Clinton's biggest donors favor Biden - but that's not enough

Gallup: Biden, Sanders Still Have Best Images Among Democrats

The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor: Joe Biden Meets Indiana Jones

Stamford Advocate: Democrats see weak spots in their own 2020 prospects

CNBC: Wall Street Democratic donors warn the party: We'll sit out, or back Trump, if you nominate Elizabeth Warren

Real Clear Politics: 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination (10/22)

Background on James Carville

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