WASHINGTON – Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has raised more money in North Carolina than any other Democratic candidate, outpacing his rivals in fundraising even while he lags in national polls.
The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has raised $157,402 for his campaign from North Carolina contributors, putting him significantly above the totals in the state for Democratic heavy-weights like former vice president Joe Biden and well-known U.S. senators.
The standings come from a Policy Watch analysis of Federal Election Commission data of campaign contributions through the end of June. They include itemized contributions – all donations that exceed $200 as well as some smaller donations detailed by the campaign.
Buttigieg, 37, has branded himself as the millennial candidate in a crowded field. He has energized LGBTQ support with his surprisingly strong run as a young, gay, married man. He is also a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and a former Rhodes scholar.
Buttigieg’s success in fundraising has not been reflected in state or national polls, where he has not surpassed single digits. Buttigieg lags far behind Democratic challengers Biden, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a Real Clear Politics average of North Carolina polling data.
Buttigieg had just 6.5% support in North Carolina in those polls. Biden led the pack with 37.5%.
Recent nationwide polls from late July and early August also put Biden ahead nationwide and Buttigieg trailing far behind. Buttigieg has just 5.5% support nationally, according to the most recent Real Clear Politics average of national polls.
But in North Carolina, Buttigieg is successfully bringing in support with campaign donations. The Buttigieg campaign total is narrowly ahead of the second leading fundraiser for North Carolina, Sanders, who raised $150,864 in the state so far this cycle.
Biden trails with just under $131,000 and Warren raised $104,780. The other Democratic presidential hopefuls have each raised significantly less from North Carolina.
Contributions from donors in North Carolina make up a fraction of a percent of the totals the campaigns have in their coffers for each of the Democratic candidates. Buttigieg’s campaign has brought in over $32 million nationwide. Itemized contributions from North Carolina make up about one-half of one percent of the Buttigieg campaign’s total contributions, although he likely received smaller donations from the state that weren’t itemized.
North Carolinians are also giving far more to Trump’s campaign. The president’s re-election campaign has raised nearly $1.3 million in North Carolina this campaign cycle, eclipsing any individual Democratic candidate. Trump’s total fundraising from North Carolina is almost twice that of all of the Democratic candidates combined.
Friends in North Carolina
Among Buttigieg’s supporters is North Carolina Rep. Grier Martin (D), who represents Wake County in the General Assembly. Martin has a
personal connection with the candidate: he met Buttigieg in 2012 as part of a two-year Rodel Fellowship with the Aspen Institute. The fellowship brings state political leaders together to discuss philosophy and policy.
Buttigieg impressed Martin in the meetings and discussions they had at the Aspen Institute, Martin said in an interview. Martin decided to support the campaign because he thinks Buttigieg can bring people together in a divided political climate.
“Early on, I got to see Pete’s approach to working with those who had different opinions than him. His initial approach is to listen and make sure he understands what everyone else thinks,” Martin said. “Sometimes in a two-hour conversation, Pete would be silent for the first hour then come in with an observation or synthesis that brought people together and gave us all new insight.”
Martin says there is a lot of energy for Buttigieg in North Carolina, even though the campaign itself has been more focused on states with early primaries. He thinks the thoughtfulness he observed in face-to-face conversations with Buttigieg has come across in debates and speeches and drawn people to the candidate.
North Carolina’s primary will be on March 3, “Super Tuesday,” with 110 delegates at stake.
Martin gave $2,800 to the campaign – the maximum amount an individual can contribute during the primary under campaign finance laws. Other top Buttigieg contributors in the state include Mitchell Gold of furniture giant Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and Tim Rogers, the CEO of the Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina.
Douglas Gillan, a psychology professor at North Carolina State University, is one of the many small donors to the Buttiegieg campaign. Gillan gave $35 to Buttigieg and has also donated to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker this year. Ultimately, he will support any Democratic candidate that can beat Trump, he said.
Gillan thinks Buttigieg has reasonable policy proposals that are “progressive but not outside of what the American people are going to be supportive of.”
“He is a bright and engaging politician. He is certainly very articulate, and one of the things that I have liked about him is that he recognizes we need to fix our democracy before we can do any of the other things we want to do,” Gillan said.
Gillan thinks Buttigieg will rise in the polls as he gets more name recognition.
“He is a bright, young guy. I am not sure if I am in his demographic as a 67-year-old straight man, but I think a lot of other 67-year-old straight men and women, as well as lots of other people, are interested in what he has to say and want him to have a platform,” Gillan said.
‘More AstroTurf than grassroots’
But some political analysts say Buttigieg’s success with fundraising will not lead to success in the polls.
“I would not say that his level of contributions coming out of North Carolina translates to any broad base of support in the state,” said Brad Crone, founder and president of North Carolina public affairs consulting firm Campaign Connections.
Crone says the Buttigieg campaign has been focused on fundraising but has not built the political network that is necessary to get strong voting support.
Meanwhile, the Sanders team has been building on the political organization it started in the last campaign and Biden has strong ties to many leaders of the North Carolina Democratic Party, Crone said.
Crone is an independent political consultant who has worked on many state campaigns but is not working for any presidential candidates.
“At this point in North Carolina, Mayor Pete is an inch deep and a mile wide,” said Crone. “He has built name ID and awareness of the campaign but any type of strength politically from the grassroots network is all cyber-based. It is more AstroTurf than grassroots.”
Here’s how much the 20 Democratic presidential hopefuls who appeared in the most recent televised debates have received from North Carolina donors so far this election cycle. The numbers include data through June 30 and include only the donations itemized in the campaigns’ filings, which likely exclude some small donations.
Allison Winter is a reporter for the Washington, DC bureau of the States Newsroom Network of which NC Policy Watch is a member.
Above photo by Gary Riggs courtesy of WikiCommons CC BY-SA 4.0