Tom Steyer’s strategy did not appear to pay off.
The billionaire hedge-fund founder plowed millions of dollars into television and social media ads to promote his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he failed to register a minimum of 2 percentage points in two polls released Wednesday morning. Without those polls, he is likely to miss the debate stage in Houston next month.
Steyer entered the race late – on July 9 – and scrambled to meet the Democratic National Committee’s polling and donor benchmarks. Candidates needed to register at least 2% in four DNC-approved polls and receive money from 130,000 individual contributors, including at least 400 donors in each of 20 or more states.
Steyer has already hit the polling threshold in three polls, all of which came in early state polling. In order to qualify for the September debate, he would need to hit the 2% threshold in a fourth poll released by the end of the day on Wednesday.
He announced earlier this month that he had met the donor threshold.
Steyer has repeatedly insisted that he would qualify for the September debate, telling CNN earlier this month: “We will make it.”
He spent millions, including on paid canvassers going door-to-door, asking people to send in $1 to help him reach the threshold of 130,000 donors. He made the same pitch on Facebook ads, even as he kept the most robust national TV advertising campaign of any Democratic candidate.
Steyer also dismissed the suggestion that he was trying to buy his way onto the debate stage.
“I’d say this is all about can you convince people that your vision matters,” he told CNN.
When pressed about his spending, he replied: “Look, if people don’t want to hear what I have to say they won’t respond. This is all about do I have something to say that voters agree with, respond to and want to push. That is the question. Money doesn’t change that at all.”
His campaign manager, Heather Hargreaves, said Wednesday in a statement, “It is clear from public polling that Tom would have easily met the 2% threshold and been on the debate stage if there had been any qualified early state polling in the last few weeks. … we understand the rules established by the DNC and respect the process.”
The environmentalist-turned-politician spent $10.3 million on television ads through Monday, according to Advertising Analytics, which tracks political advertising. His campaign also spent more than $5.5 million on Facebook and Google ads, according to data released by those companies.
Steyer’s recent spending as a presidential candidate doesn’t count tens of millions he has plowed into politics in recent years to become the public face of a political operation calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. His Need to Impeach campaign has attracted more than 8 million supporters, and his presidential campaign has rented that list of impeachment supporters as it works to build public support for his candidacy.
CNN’s Ryan Nobles contributed to this report.